MILAN (Reuters) - The UK’s top share index ended the session in positive territory on Thursday but lagged European peers as falling metal prices hit commodity stocks and a number of British blue chips traded without entitlement to their latest dividend pay-outs.
The FTSE closed up 0.63 percent, well below the pan-European STOXX 600 which rose 1.07 percent, lifted by the European Central Bank’s decision to drop its promise to increase bond purchases if needed, a step towards stimulus exit.
The UK index is down 6.3 percent year to date while the STOXX has limited its fall to 3.2 percent.
Many heavy losses were due to the fact that dividend payment dates came through. Persimmon lost 3.6 percent, Evraz retreated 3.4 percent and BHP Billiton was down 2.7 percent.
The basic materials sector also suffered on worries over the threat of a global trade war curbing economic growth and metals demand.
Anglo American and Rio Tinto were down 2.9 percent and 1.2 percent respectively as U.S. trade tensions overshadowed strong February export data from the world’s second largest economy, China. [MET/L]
“This morning’s Chinese trade data are only likely to reinforce the U.S. administration’s perception of unfair trade,” CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael Hewson said in a note.
Losses in mining stocks were offset by gains in drugmakers and consumer companies as investors sought refuge in defensive stocks before U.S. President Donald Trump details his tariff plans, expected on Thursday or Friday.
Pizza delivery firm Domino’s Pizza rose 2.6 percent following a better-than-expected 10.2 percent rise in its full year pretax profit.
AB Foods (ABF.L) rose 0.7 percent following an upgrade to “buy” from Goldman Sachs on expectations a weak dollar would underpin its profit recovery.
Soft drinks company Britvic rose 6.3 pct after Morgan Stanley upgraded it to “overweight”, saying the price offered an attractive entry point.
Aviva had a muted response (up 0.2 percent) from the market after it reported its earnings and said it planned to return 500 million pounds to shareholders. KBW analysts described the results as a “mixed bag”.
Reporting by Danilo Masoni and Julien Ponthus; Editing by Andrew Roche