July 29, 2020 / 7:32 AM / 13 days ago

FTSE 100 ends flat ahead of Fed decision; GSK slumps on weak earnings

(Reuters) - The FTSE 100 ended flat on Wednesday as investors held out for more stimulus from the U.S. Congress and the Federal Reserve, while GlaxoSmithKline, Barclays and Taylor Wimpey slid on weak quarterly earnings.

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain. Aug 23, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

The world’s largest vaccine maker, GSK (GSK.L), slumped 3.2% to hit a 15-week low after missing second-quarter profit estimates under the effect of coronavirus lockdowns, dragging the healthcare index .FTNMX4570 down 1.8%.

Kicking off the quarterly earnings season for UK banks, Barclays (BARC.L) set aside a higher-than-expected 1.6 billion pounds ($2.07 billion) to cover a possible rise in loan losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its shares fell 6.1%.

But a 7.7% jump for Next Plc (NXT.L) helped the blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE end in positive territory as the retailer reported a smaller-than-feared slump in second-quarter sales.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 .FTMC was off 0.2%, weighed by losses in consumer discretionary, financial and tech-related stocks.

The Fed is expected to sound reassuringly accommodative at its policy review due at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), followed by Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference, but investors have turned wary over political wrangling between U.S. Democrats and Republicans on a coronavirus relief plan. [MKTS/GLOB][.N]

“Not much will come of (the Fed meeting) in terms of policy. That said, we think a sober assessment from the Fed or Powell could challenge risk sentiment,” said Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist at TD Securities.

“With COVID cases ravaging the U.S. and the job market stalling, there is a risk that Powell sounds more bearish than dovish.”

Uncertainty about global efforts to contain the pandemic stalled a three-month rally for the FTSE 100 in July. Although recent economic data has shown a revival in business activity with the lifting of nationwide lockdowns, traders are concerned about the damage from another possible shutdown.

Homebuilder Taylor Wimpey Plc (TW.L) shed 8.1% on saying it expected to complete around 40% fewer homes in 2020.

Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Kevin Liffey

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