Pound and FTSE push higher as Brexit deal stokes optimism
A roller-coaster day for FTSE firms saw the London markets close higher despite tailing off slightly in afternoon trading as optimism over a new Brexit deal softened.
Sterling also rose marginally higher against the dollar on Thursday, but still finished significantly short of its morning high after Boris Johnson secured the fresh Brexit deal.
The FTSE 100 closed 14.37 points higher at 7,182.32 at the end of trading on Thursday.
Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said: “Poor old pound. The currency spent Thursday in a complete tizzy, its emotional state severely tested by the minute-by-minute Brexit updates.
“Staring the day in the red following the DUP’s initial rebuttal, the pound found itself tickling 1.30 US dollars for the first time since mid-May in the aftermath of the deal-announcement, only to drop back as Arlene Foster and co reaffirmed their unhappiness with what has been put forward.”
The pound was 0.3% up versus the US dollar at 1.285, and down 0.22% against the euro at 1.155.
News of the trade deal raised sentiment across the London markets as domestic-focused stocks performed particularly well.
The European markets were slightly less positive, tipping into the red in the afternoon after Brexit hopes had helped them rise earlier in the day.
The German Dax decreased by 0.12% while the French Cac moved 0.42% lower.
Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones also made modest gains amid reports that China and the US are discussing the next phase of trade talks.
In company news, shares in WH Smith jumped higher after it continued its march into the US by snapping up North American retailer Marshall Retail for 400 million US dollars (£312 million).
The news came as the retailer revealed that sales jumped 11% across the business to £1.4 billion.
Shares in the historic retailer increased by 122p to 2,210p.
Ben & Jerry’s manufacturer Unilever was another riser despite missing City forecasts after a slowdown in key international markets and weaker growth in ice cream.
The Marmite maker reported weaker-than-expected sales in the past three months due to softer demand in China and India. Shares rose by 44p to 4,652.5p.
Domino’s Pizza saw shares close higher after it said it is planning to withdraw from its foreign markets as they continue to decline.
Outgoing chief executive David Wild said that a review had concluded Domino’s would be better off selling the business, which stretches across Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Shares in Domino’s moved 11.2p higher to 277p at the close of trading.
Elsewhere, National Express saw shares nudge upwards after it said it looked to North America, Spain and Morocco for growth, helping to drive up margins.
Shares in the transport firm increased by 5.6p to 457.4p on Thursday.
The price of oil slipped as US stockpiles were significantly higher than traders expected in the latest Energy Information Administration report.
The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil decreased by 0.54% to 58.72 US dollars.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Legal & General, up 7.3p at 275p, Prudential, up 33.5p at 1,498p, Rentokil, up 10.8p at 453p, and Tui, up 24.5p at 1,057.5p.
The biggest fallers on the index were Mondi, down 81p at 1,533.5p, DS Smith, down 17.5p at 334.2p, Smurfit Kappa, down 90p at 2,444p, and BAE Systems, down 15.4p at 540p.