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FTSE drops as Russian sanctions jolt markets and commodities fall

FTSE drops as Russian sanctions jolt markets and commodities fall
FILE PHOTO: People walk past the London Stock Exchange Group offices in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo   -   Copyright  Toby Melville(Reuters)
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By Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s top share index fell on Thursday as fresh U.S. sanctions on Russia led to a selloff in commodities and several stocks went ex-dividend, while disappointing earnings sent travel operator TUI down 9 percent.

Oil and mining stocks across Europe tumbled on the fresh blow for commodities giant Russia, driving the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> to fall 0.6 percent. #Oil majors BP and Shell also traded ex-dividend.

Washington said on Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia by the end of August, after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

In UK stocks, earnings continued to drive the day. TUI <TUIT.L> shares fell 9.4 percent after its quarterly results disappointed investors. The tourism group blamed a summer heat wave for keeping Europeans at home instead of travelling.

Profitability in the tour operator segment fell, driven by weaker performance in the UK.

“The GBP devaluation and weather impact has been well flagged, but commentary regarding a shortening of average duration of holidays is new,” said Barclays analysts.

Shares in defence company G4S <GFS.L> fell 6.6 percent, set for their worst day in a year, after first-half earnings missed company-compiled expectations, partly due to weaker margins in Cash Solutions.

“Attack-related higher operating costs in Africa (following several attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles in South Africa) and investment in business development weighed on profitability,” said Goldman Sachs analysts.

Also on the mid-cap FTSE 250 index <.FTMC>, card retailer Card Factory <CARDC.L> fell 10 percent after becoming the latest UK retailer to report fewer customers visiting its stores.

“The main culprit seems to have been lower high street footfall as a result of weather and World Cup,” said UBS analysts.

Cinema company Cineworld <CINE.L> topped the FTSE 250 with a 7 percent gain after it reported a rise in half-year revenue thanks to big-ticket superhero movie releases.

Overall, earnings have helped the FTSE 100, with analysts raising their estimates during the season.

The FTSE 100 has remained resilient to mounting fears the UK may be heading for a no deal Brexit, driving sterling to its lowest against the dollar and euro in almost a year. FTSE 100 constituents mostly benefit from a weaker currency.

“If the hard Brexit becomes more of a reality, there might be an effect, but at the moment most people think it’s a bit of a Mexican standoff,” said Paul Mumford, portfolio manager at Cavendish Asset Management.

Stocks going ex-dividend, including Barclays, BT, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Rio Tinto, and Standard Chartered, took 39 points off the FTSE 100.

(Reporting by Helen Reid, editing by Larry King)

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