LONDON (Reuters) - Shares in Britain’s dollar-earning multinationals edged down on Tuesday amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, while Ashtead rose on results.
The FTSE 100 .FTSE ended 0.1 percent lower. The index, dominated by exporters, tends to suffer from a stronger currency making their goods relatively more expensive.
Consumer goods giants were among the biggest drags on the FTSE 100, taking a cumulative 12.2 points off the index.
Financials also drove the index lower after tensions between the U.S. and China rose. Beijing is seeking World Trade Organisation backing to impose $7 billion a year in sanctions on the U.S. over a dumping duties dispute which started in 2013.
Mining stocks Antofagasta (ANTO.L), Anglo American (AAL.L), BHP Billiton (BLT.L), and Fresnillo (FRES.L) fell 1.7 to 2.4 percent as investors seized on the latest flare-up between Beijing and Washington — even though it was unrelated to the current trade war — to sell stocks sensitive to global trade.
Sterling initially built on Monday’s gains after the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a Brexit deal could be reached in six to eight weeks if both sides were “realistic”.
Yet the currency fell back as pessimism about a Brexit deal crept back in.
“For the FTSE it’s not necessarily good news but that [pound/FTSE] relationship has been a bit flakey in the last few weeks, the one to one relationship hasn’t really been all that reliable,” said Ian Williams, strategist at Peel Hunt.
Topping the FTSE 100 was industrial equipment rental group Ashtead (AHT.L), up 3.2 percent after it said full-year earnings would beat its previous forecast after a 20 percent rise in first-quarter profit thanks to a stronger U.S. business.
“A strong set of results across the board with 19 percent group rental revenue growth, which in the U.S. comprised both volume and yield growth,” wrote Jefferies analysts.
Ashtead said a weaker sterling had benefited its business, and said it would increase its share buyback programme.
Among mid- and small-caps, JD Sports (JD.L) rose 6.5 percent after reporting a near 19 percent rise in first-half earnings thanks to overseas growth.
DP Eurasia (DPEU.L) shares gained 5.9 percent after the firm which runs the Domino’s Pizza brand in Turkey and Russia reported rising profit as it hiked prices in order to keep pace with Turkish inflation after a slump in the Turkish lira.
“While macro uncertainty remains, the business is one of very high quality and managing a situation of high inflation commendably led by a management team with prior experience of such situations,” wrote Liberum analysts.
Overall, with the FTSE 100 trading at a lower valuation, analysts say the market is pricing in significant risk.
“In the short-term there is a little bit more downside risk but we’re at valuation levels now where it must start to limit the downside,” said Peel Hunt’s Williams.
Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Alexander Smith and Toby Davis