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UK shares little changed, corporate action muted

UK shares little changed, corporate action muted
Traders look at financial information on computer screens on the IG Index trading floor in London, Britain February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Files -
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SIMON DAWSON(Reuters)
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By Shashwat Awasthi

(Reuters) – UK shares were largely unchanged on Monday as investors opted for a wait-and-watch approach amid simmering U.S.-China trade tensions and Brexit worries, and as scant corporate news failed to spur significant stock moves.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 index was roughly flat, but hovered close to a near two-month high, while the mid-cap index was also flat by 0800 GMT.

Both indexes look set to post gains for the month, bouncing back from losses in August that were triggered by escalating trade jitters and accompanying fears of a global recession, as well as sustained Brexit anxiety.

The FTSE 100 index is on track for its best month since June and the domestically-focussed FTSE 250 was on course for its biggest monthly rise since April.

GlaxoSmithKline added 1.5% after its maintenance therapy for a form of ovarian cancer reduced the risk of disease progression or death, while AstraZeneca dipped 1.8% despite a positive reading of its ovarian cancer treatment.

The two blue-chip stocks were the most notable movers on a rather subdued day that also saw modest gains in Asia-focussed banks such as HSBC and Prudential, though sentiment around U.S.-China trade remained uneasy.

Sources said on Friday that Washington was considering de-listing Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges, casting further doubt on whether the protracted trade dispute could be resolved soon.

There was also very little action on the Brexit front, with market participants left waiting for what may happen next in Britain’s already chaotic process to exit the European Union.

“Investors have two of the horsemen front and centre this week – it’s a case of trade tensions ad nauseum, Brexit ad infinitum,” Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said.

Small-cap Metro Bank advanced 9% after a report that activists led by Elliott Advisors were mulling taking a stake in the lender.

Metro’s shares have already shed nearly 90% in value this year after a major loan book error and had slumped to an all-time low last week after it scrapped a bond sale.

Among mid-caps, HomeServe added 4% after RBC raised its rating and nearly doubled its price target on the home repairs provider, while Sirius Minerals and Airtel Africa rose nearly 14% each.

(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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