LONDON Britain's top shares index is expected to lose ground over the coming year, a Reuters poll found, amid concerns over Britain's exit from the European Union and the path of interest rates.
Jitters before November's U.S presidential election, pitting Democrat Hillary Clinton against Republican Donald Trump, are expected to add pressure to stock markets in coming weeks.
The Reuters poll of around 30 traders, fund managers and strategists gave a median end-2016 forecast for the FTSE 100 of 6,800 points, a decline to 6,750 points by June 2017 and then a gain to 7,000 points by the end of 2017.
On Monday, the index closed at a 16-month high of 6,983.52, boosted by a tumbling pound, which fell on new worries over Brexit. The median forecast points to a 3 percent fall from there to the end of 2016 and a 0.2 percent gain from there to the end of 2017.
The FTSE 100 rose further on Tuesday, going over 7,000 points for the first time since mid-2015, as the slump in sterling boosted the FTSE's internationally focused, export-driven stocks, which often benefit from a weaker pound.
Nevertheless, many traders and strategists expected such gains to be relatively short-lived. Among leading investment banks, Goldman Sachs forecast the FTSE 100 ending 2016 at 6,600 points, while UBS predicted 6,500 points.
"We will go into a negative phase, as the prospect of a hard Brexit unsettles the market, confidence wanes in central bank actions, and as we face uncertainty in the U.S. before and after the Presidential elections," said Berkeley Futures associate director Richard Griffiths.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said this week she would begin the process of leaving the EU by the end of March 2017.
Many analysts and economists said her comments indicated a "hard Brexit" - abandoning the EU's customs union and giving up on seeking preferential access to the single market.
In addition, the Federal Reserve is poised to raise U.S. rates while Britain and the European Central Bank keep rates at record lows. Concerns are growing that negative interest rates will hit the profits of British and European banks.
"The lack of earnings growth remains a big concern for me, and the Fed is moving towards tightening, which will be a near- to medium-term negative for markets at the same time that the ECB is unwilling to ease further," said Hantec Markets' analyst Richard Perry.
(Other stories from the Reuters global stock markets poll:)
(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash and Danilo Masoni, editing by Larry King)