British shares jump on trade hope; Taylor Wimpey triggers house-builder rally
(Reuters) – U.K. shares jumped to their highest in more than a month on Wednesday, joining a broad global rally on hopes of an end to the U.S.-Sino trade row and as a positive update from Taylor Wimpey gave a much-needed boost to house-builders.
London’s blue-chip bourse was up 0.9 percent at 0945 GMT after hitting its highest since Dec. 6 and the mid-cap index was up 1.2 percent at its loftiest since Dec. 5.
European and Asian markets rallied after talks in Beijing with U.S. officials concluded earlier on Wednesday as the world’s two largest economies tried to seek a truce in their longstanding row.
A U.S. trade delegation member said “it’s been a good one for us” and the Chinese foreign ministry said results of the negotiations will be released later.
At home though, uncertainty over the United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union deepened ahead of next week’s vote on the draft deal in parliament.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government cautioned MPs on Wednesday that it was a delusion to think the government would be able to negotiate a new divorce deal with the European Union if parliament voted down her deal.
Her government suffered a defeat in parliament on Tuesday night when MPs who oppose leaving without a deal won a vote on creating a new obstacle to a no-deal Brexit.
Still, house-builders, one of the most battered sectors amid concerns about the slowing economy due to Brexit – led the gains on Wednesday after Taylor Wimpey maintained its 2018 results forecast and predicted solid 2019 sales.
Its shares advanced 5.3 percent, topping the blue-chip leader board and on track for their best day since July 2016, taking peers Persimmon and Barratt with them.
“The glass half full interpretation of some of these trading updates from domestically focussed UK businesses indicates that investors are becoming a little less worried about problematic Brexit outcomes,” said Chris Bailey, Raymond James analyst.
Sainsbury’s shares slipped almost 3 percent in early deals on a worse-than-expected fall in underlying sales in the key Christmas quarter. By 0949 GMT, they erased losses to be 1.4 percent higher in choppy trading.
The update comes just a day after peer Morrisons also missed sales forecast for the key period, while Tesco bucked the trend and led a rally after industry data covering the Christmas quarter sales.
Among mid-caps, IT infrastructure and service provider Softcat surged nearly 20 percent after an unscheduled trading update to its best day on record if gains hold.
Fashion retailer Ted Baker followed with a 11.2 percent jump on higher retail sales in the holiday period, tracking its biggest intraday gain in over two and half years.
Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf said the update also helped allay concerns that news around CEO Ray Kelvin’s alleged conduct could have impacted trading in the all-important Christmas period.
AIM-listed Faroe Petroleum added 4.2 percent to match a 160-pence-per-share sweetened takeover bid from Norwegian oil firm DNO ASA, while mid-cap baker Greggs rose 5.1 percent after it flagged a “very strong” finish to the year.
(Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; editing by Josephine Mason and Andrew Cawthorne)