By Helen Reid
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s major stock index steadied on Friday at the end of a busy week of central bank meetings, with financials sagging again while BT was boosted by a deal with Sky.
The FTSE 100 inched around 0.1 percent lower in line with mid- and small-cap indices. The leading companies index was set for a small gain on the week, having hit its highest level in a month on Wednesday.
Financials weighed heaviest, continuing their slide from the previous session as investors’ building enthusiasm around bank stocks – expected to gain from U.S. tax reform and rising interest rates – dissipated.
Thursday’s Bank of England and ECB meetings made clear that at least for the European region lenders would have longer to wait for monetary policy to tighten.
“It’s hardly new news that the central banks are telling us again that stimulus withdrawals are going to be very gradual,” said Ian Williams, economist and strategist at Peel Hunt.
“The long-term trend in rates will be up, but I think it’s going to take a long time so the financials are responding the most to that,” he added.
HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays fell 0.6, 0.9 and 1.4 percent, the top drags to the FTSE 100.
BT rose 1.1 percent after striking a deal with Sky to carry each other’s channels.
Domestic stocks were a touch weaker, as investors awaited the fallout from the second day of the EU summit.
High-street stalwart Next traded 1.4 percent lower, while housebuilders Ashtead, Persimmon and Barratt Developments were down 0.9 to 1.4 percent.
Utilities gained as investors moved into more defensive sectors.
With few large stock moves to puncture calm trading, broker ratings drove Glencore and Segro higher.
JP Morgan analysts upgraded Glencore to ‘overweight’, boosting the stock up 0.9 percent.
Analysts at the bank said: “Growth, capital discipline and valuations support higher beta.”
Commercial real estate investment trust Segro gained 1.5 percent after Liberum upgraded to ‘buy’, citing greater growth in the industrial sector around London.
“Investment demand for industrial estate continues to drive strong capital growth,” said Liberum analysts.
“We expect full-year results to confirm sustained strong occupier demand supporting like-for-like rental growth and development completions,” they added.
Small-cap electrical components firm Luceco sank 37 percent after the firm said the group’s financial controller resigned as a result of an accounting error.
The gap between winners and losers in UK stocks has widened recently, investors said.
“Investors are definitely focusing on the stocks that are displaying positive earnings momentum, “ said Peel Hunt’s Williams.
“Although they are chuntering a bit about valuation, being expensive hasn’t really been a barrier to outperformance.”
Overall on the FTSE 100, analysts have persistently been revising earnings expectations lower.
(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)