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FTSE 100 clings on to gains as weaker pound supports, Inmarsat surges

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FTSE 100 clings on to gains as weaker pound supports, Inmarsat surges
FILE PHOTO: A broker reacts on the IG Index the trading floor in London, Britain February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson   -   Copyright  SIMON DAWSON(Reuters)
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(Reuters) – A weaker pound amid growing Brexit concerns offset a selloff in blue-chip miners and lifted the exporter-heavy FTSE 100 on Wednesday, while satellite operator Inmarsat surged on a $3.3 billion takeover approach.

The FTSE 100 shrugged off initial losses to add 0.1 percent, up for an eighth straight session, and the FTSE 250 index of mid-range stocks was roughly flat by 0844 GMT.

Mining stocks slipped more than 2.5 percent as iron ore prices plunged in anticipation of increased supply after Vale SA was set to restart work at its largest iron ore mine.

Reports of possible friction in the Sino-U.S. trade talks also weighed. Rio Tinto lost 3.3 percent while Glencore, Anglo American and BHP declined.

Antofagasta shed 4 percent to be the biggest blue-chip loser, as an HSBC rating downgrade also weighed on the stock.

But the pound weakened amid uncertainty over Brexit, amid reports that Prime Minister Theresa May will request a short delay to Britain’s divorce from the bloc in a letter to the European Union. This helped internationally-focused stocks gain on the main bourse.

“Having had a good run in the last few sessions a pause seems sensible and we may expect now to see some consolidation around the 7,300 level,” said analyst Neil Wilson.

Home improvement retailer Kingfisher slipped 3.8 percent after it reported full-year results and said it had started the process to find a new chief executive.

Trading volume was light overall, with investors cautious ahead of the Fed’s policy decision, in which it is expected to hold interest rates steady, shave the number of hikes projected for the rest of the year, and detail a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Mid-cap satellite operator Inmarsat jumped 16.5 percent, on course for its best day in more than a decade after it confirmed takeover talks with a consortium of investors that could take the company private for about $3.3 billion.

Keir Group tumbled 8.5 percent after its half-year underlying earnings fell and the builder slashed its interim dividend.

(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by David Holmes)

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