September 5, 2018 / 9:17 AM / 16 days ago

UK housebuilders shine as FTSE 100 comes under pressure

LONDON (Reuters) - The UK’s top share index retreated on Wednesday as big oil stocks fell, though housebuilders were a bright spot following comments from Berkeley Group about the London housing market.

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

Britain's blue chip FTSE 100 .FTSE index ended down 1 percent at 7,383.28 points.

The FTSE widened its losses after a report saying that Germany and the UK had dropped key Brexit demands boosted sterling, putting more pressure on the internationally exposed index.

Other stock markets in Europe also fell and Wall Street started in negative territory on the back of continuing worries over trade tensions and weakness in emerging markets.

“Emerging markets have been particularly weak and a lack of progress regarding international trade talks continues to unsettle investors,” AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said.

A drop in the price of oil weighed on heavyweight energy stocks, with shares in both BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) falling around 1 percent. [O/R]

Berkeley Group (BKGH.L) led UK housebuilders, its shares gaining 0.8 percent after giving a trading update.

The firm said Britain’s housing market was sluggish amid uncertainty over Britain’s planned departure from the European Union next year, but added that prices and demand in London were holding up.

London housing, especially towards the higher end of the market, has been a particular worry for investors in the sector because foreign investors have been the driving force behind soaring prices in the capital.

Barratt Developments (BDEV.L) reported its full-year results, which included a 9 percent rise in pre-tax profit. Barratt shares rose 1.8 percent.

“Housebuilders have come off their highs on expected slower growth but the results we’ve seen so far from Redrow, Persimmon and Barratt don’t really back that up,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

Among smaller stocks, William Hill (WMH.L) was one of the strongest performers on the FTSE 250 as investors cheered its third U.S. deal in just over a month.

William Hill’s shares rose 4.8 percent after it signed a 25-year sports betting deal with casino operator Eldorado Resorts Inc (ERI.O).

“We believe that William Hill’s share price has fallen too far and today’s deal serves as a reminder that the group has an interesting option in the U.S. as well as more challenged businesses in the UK,” analysts at Peel Hunt said in a note.

William Hill’s shares are down 19 percent so far this year.

Reporting by Kit Rees and Danilo Masoni; editing by Andrew Roche

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