LONDON (Reuters) - British shares missed out on a rising tide across European bourses on Wednesday as sterling rallied to a two-month high following reports Britain and the European Union had agreed the outlines of a Brexit divorce bill.
The FTSE 100 .FTSE sank 0.9 percent to its worst loss in a month as the pound rose to a two-month high after EU diplomats said Britain has moved close to EU demands over Brexit.
European stocks rose 0.3 percent, having earlier hit their highest in almost three weeks.
A firming pound is viewed as negative for the dollar-earning companies that make up the bulk of the FTSE index, while an opposite swing in the currency gives them a corresponding accounting-related boost.
Internationally-focused dollar earners in the consumer staples sector dominated FTSE losses. Heavyweight tobacco firm British American Tobacco (BATS.L) shed 3.4 percent, while peer Imperial Brands (IMB.L) fell 2.9 percent.
The domestically-focused lenders are beneficiaries of a stronger pound. Analysts at Brown Brothers Harriman also said the currency gain caused investors to price in more Bank of England rate rises, another positive for lenders.
Retailers, for whom a falling currency translates into price inflation and margin pressure, also performed well. Supermarket Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) and high street stalwarts Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) and Next (NXT.L) rose 2.7 to 4.4 percent.
Mid-cap Ocado (OCDO.L) once again stole the limelight. The UK online grocer jumped 16.2 percent in the second day of a rally which has boosted its market value by 40 percent after a deal with French supermarket Casino (CASP.PA).
The strong move higher was largely caused by a short squeeze on the stock which is heavily shorted, while the deal itself got a mixed reception from analysts.
It “appears good for sentiment but will likely have minimal profit impact for some time whilst consuming capex and cash,” wrote HSBC analysts in a note.
Cinema chain Cineworld Group (CINE.L) posted the most spectacular fall, dropping 14 percent after it announced it was in talks to acquire U.S. peer Regal Entertainment (RGC.N) for approximately $3.6 billion in cash.
The sharp dive in the shares is understandable given the size of the deal and a likely rights issueStifel analyst Jeffrey Harwood wrote
Among energy stocks, Africa-focused Tullow Oil (TLW.L) gained 3.7 percent after it refinanced $2.5 billion of loans borrowed against its oil and gas reserves.
The rest of the sector was deep in negative territory as oil prices fell on doubts about whether OPEC and Russia would agree on extending a crude production cut to cover all of 2018, and a report of an unexpected rise in U.S. crude oil inventories.
Mid-cap ZPG (ZPG.L), owner of property websites Zoopla and PrimeLocation, lost 6.8 percent after it reported a smaller-than-expected full-year pretax profit as it spent more on acquisitions and advertising.
British soft drinks firm Britvic (BVIC.L) shot up 6.9 percent after its full-year adjusted core earnings rose 5 percent.
Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Helen Reid; Editing by Gareth Jones