April 4, 2018 / 9:27 AM / 23 days ago

Trade worries a bother for Britain's FTSE as WPP wobbles

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* FTSE 100 down 0.4 pct

* Trade tensions weigh on stocks

* WPP drops after co to probe CEO

By Kit Rees

LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - The UK’s top share index declined on Wednesday as worries over global trade dented appetite for risky assets, while advertising group WPP dropped as it investigated its boss for alleged misconduct.

The blue chip FTSE 100 was down 0.4 percent at 7,003.09 points by 0859 GMT, while mid caps fell 0.6 percent.

Shares in WPP fell 1.5 percent after the advertising group said it was investigating an allegation of personal misconduct against its CEO, Martin Sorrell, who denied wrongdoing.

“Given (Sorrell’s) high profile, the accusations are bound to attract a lot of attention and, given he is the face of WPP to many, there is likely to be a negative impact on sentiment today,” analysts at Liberum said in a note.

“One thing this may do is intensify talk about Sir Martin’s successor at WPP, which has been an issue lurking in the background,” Liberum analysts added.

The FTSE 100 extended losses, in line with a broader slide among European indexes, after China announced additional tariffs on $50 billion of U.S. goods.

Worries over global trade have weighed on stocks over the past month, with the Trump administration set to unveil a list of Chinese advanced technology imports targeted for U.S. tariffs to punish Beijing over technology transfer policies.

“It’s more (about) the second-order effects on global growth sentiment, and the fact that this is all arriving at a time where some of the leading indicators have been rolling over anyway,” Ian Williams, economics & strategy research analyst at Peel Hunt, said.

“Generally, at times like this historically the UK equity market has been reasonably defensive ... the nature of the sector weightings tend to be a bit less cyclically-exposed,” Williams added.

The trend across the FTSE 100 was risk-averse, with sectors considered more defensive plays in demand.

Health stocks Shire and GlaxoSmithKline were among the biggest gainers, while precious metals miner Fresnillo was up 1.9 percent, as gold is considered a safe-haven asset.

Sectors which are more sensitive to the economic cycle such as financials and materials were by contrast the biggest weights on the index.

While individual stock moves were relatively muted, shares in grocer Morrison were the top gainers, up nearly 2 percent following the release of industry data compiled by Kantar Worldpanel.

The data showed Morrison and peer Tesco continued to outperform rival “big four” supermarkets in the 12 weeks to March 25, with both enjoying sales growth of 2.4 percent. Shares in Tesco however declined 0.7 percent. (Reporting by Kit Rees Editing by David Holmes)

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