UK shares fall as trade talk hopes fade; weak Christmas updates hurt retail
British shares were lower on Thursday, moving off their one-month highs as a lack of detail from trade talks between Washington and Beijing dented investor confidence, and weak news from the high street renewed worries about the retail sector.
The main index <.FTSE> dipped 0.6 percent and the midcaps were 0.2 percent lower as at 0853 GMT, after touching their highest in roughly a month in the last session when hopes of a trade deal lingered.
European and Asian markets pulled back when the world's two largest economies failed to give concrete details on efforts to end their trade war, as well as amid growing concerns of political instability in the United States.
President Donald Trump stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday over funding for a border wall with Mexico and reopening the government, which further dented confidence.
Amid growing uncertainty around Brexit, British Prime Minister received a further blow late on Wednesday when Parliament demanded her government come up with a plan-B within days if she loses a vote on her divorce deal, as the March 29 exit date ticks closer.
Adding to signs of an economic slowdown ahead of the deadline, data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed retailers failed to increase their Christmas sales for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis a decade ago.
Investors were also digesting largely downbeat trading updates from the high street staples, from Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Halfords, which deepened the gloom across the retail sector.
Cycling and car parts chain on the midcap index Halfords tanked 23.2 percent to its lowest in more than six years while Card Factory plunged 11.9 percent to a life low after their trading updates disappointed investors.
Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, bucked the trend with a near 2 percent rise after a 2.2 percent rise in UK like-for-like sales over Christmas. Jefferies analyst said the update confirmed Tesco as the "clear 2018 UK Christmas winner".
Dragging down the main index were miners <.FTNMX1770>, which are particularly sensitive to the trade situation, falling 1.4 percent after four sessions of gains on optimism leading up to the trade talks.
BHP slid 6.1 percent, on course for its worst day in nearly two years as the stock traded ex-dividend. All but one sector were in the negative territory in a little over 10 minutes of the opening bell.
Burberry was one of the biggest fallers, another victim of concerns about China's slowing economy as the trade row rumbles on.