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FTSE 100 weighed down by strong pound on final trading day of 2019

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

The FTSE 100 slipped on the final trading day of the year as a strengthening pound and continued global trade concerns pressed down on blue chip stocks.

London’s top flight closed 44.61 points lower at 7,542.44 at the end of trading on Tuesday.

It highlighted a definite end to the market’s recent purple patch which saw it rise higher for 11 consecutive days.

Despite US President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro saying a Phase One trade agreement with China is “in the bag”, traders appeared to remain cautious.

Stephen Innes, market strategist at AxiTrader, said: “While market volumes are predictably light, investors continue to strike a year-end cautionary tone as December optimism is gradually giving way to 2020’s uncertainty.

“Sure, the worst-case of a tariff escalation scenario has been seemingly averted.

“But, once the P1 deal is signed, investors will then press to consider the P2 risks, after all how much more progress can be realistically expected ahead of the US elections next year.”

The benchmark has risen 12.1% over the past 12 months, having closed at 6,728.10 one year ago, following a volatile year.

A positive day for the pound also helped to weigh down the most internationally-focused companies on the FTSE 100, with drug-makers notably weak in the trading session.

Sterling continued its end-of-year rally to close higher, as continued optimism over Brexit helped the currency move into the new year on the front foot.

The value of the pound increased 0.69% versus the US dollar at 1.319 and rose 0.39% against the euro at 1.175.

The major European markets drifted lower as caution over US-China trade relations led to a subdued final trading session.

The German Dax decreased by 0.66% while the French Cac moved 0.91% lower.

Across the Atlantic, traders were also pessimistic after the Dow Jones reported a 0.6% drop in trading on Monday.

In company news, mobile payments platform Bango saw its shares tumble after warning over annual sales following delays to a supply deal.

The firm – which is used by technology giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook – said total 2019 revenues will miss expectations after it failed to close deals including a customer data platform licence and marketplace supply deal in December.

Shares in Bango closed down 10p at 126.5p at the close of play.

Elsewhere, shares in Urban Exposure jumped after the asset management business said it expects to report lower operating costs for the year than previously forecast.

The AIM-listed business said costs for 2019 are due to be lower than previous expectations due to reduced staff expenses, stemming from lower remuneration and the hiring of fewer people than previously budgeted. The business closed 2.5p higher at 70p at the end of trading.

Meanwhile, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline slipped after it completed the divestment of its Rabipur travel vaccines business.

Shares in the pharmaceutical company were down 19p at 1,779p.

The price of oil was also weighed down by global trade fears, as it slipped lower despite a recent resurgence.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil fell 1.05% to 65.99 US dollars.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Evraz, up 4.3p at 404p, JD Sports, up 5.2p at 837.4p, Meggitt, up 3.8p at 656.8p, and Ocado, up 6p at 1,279p.

The biggest fallers on the index were NMC Health, down 49.5p at 1,767p, Pearson, down 14.2p at 637p, Sainsbury’s, down 4.5p at 229.9p, and Standard Life Aberdeen, down 6.4p at 328.1p.