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FTSE slightly higher led by oil, consumer goods

The London Stock Exchange Group
The London Stock Exchange Group Copyright TOBY MELVILLE(Reuters)
Copyright TOBY MELVILLE(Reuters)
By Euronews with REUTERS BUSINESS (EN)
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FTSE slightly higher led by oil, consumer goods


British shares opened slightly higher on Monday, buoyed by strength in oil majors and multinational consumer goods companies, as investors readied for news from Prime Minister Theresa May on her plan to exit from the European Union.

London's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> was 0.2 percent higher at 0900 GMT, with further weakness in the pound boosting the exporter-heavy index. The mid-caps <.FTMC> were flat.

Both were outperforming their European peers ahead of May's presentation on her Brexit "Plan B".

Oil majors were the biggest support, with BP and Shell up 0.6 percent each, as crude prices rose to their highest so far in 2019 after data showed refinery processing in China climbed to a record last year.

Consumer staple companies that earn the income abroad were the other main gainers, led by British American Tobacco and Unilever . Some 70 percent of income from the blue-chip index comes from overseas.

With roughly two months to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, May will address the parliament at about 1530 GMT to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock after her divorce deal suffered a historic defeat last week.

Expectations for any major changes in the agreement were low. Societe Generale economists said in a note they think Plan B will "look suspiciously like Plan A."

May's main opposition Labour Party is pressing for a new election - despite an unsuccessful no-confidence vote against her last week - and for her to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Elsewhere, Asian indexes reacted calmly to data that showed the Chinese economy slowed at the end of last year though industrial output rose a surprisingly strong 5.7 percent in December. 

Kingfisher dropped nearly 4 percent to the bottom of the main index after brokerage RBC cut rating to "underperform", noting that the macro and housing backdrop remains unsupportive in UK and France.

Gold miner Fresnillo rose 1.7 percent as investors turned to gold, considered a safe haven, with expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will pause its multi-year interest rate hike cycle.

Leisure and travel shares also led the gainers, with easyJet recouping some of the ground lost on Friday after Ryanair's warning.

There was plenty of corporate news to digest on the midcaps.

William Hill fell 3.1 percent to the bottom of the index after the bookmaker said it would remodel its retail business after warning that full-year profit will fall 15 percent. 

Takeaway ordering website Just Eat reversed opening losses to trade 0.8 percent higher as investors digested news that its chief executive Peter Plumb was stepping down after just 16 months at the helm and updated its forecast. 

Housebuilders <.FTNMX3720> were lower after recording their best day in roughly six months on Friday with data that showed asking prices for British property were rising at the slowest pace since 2012 amid ongoing Brexit worries.

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