UK markets closed

FTSE closes higher but held back by rallying sterling

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

The pound continued its recent rally, holding back the FTSE from rebounding quite as quickly as markets elsewhere in Europe.

Traders remained in a positive mood after Thursday’s commitments from central banks in Europe to keep economies ticking over.

The FTSE 100 closed 39.17 points higher at 5,190.78 at the end of trading on Friday.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Market UK, said: “The FTSE 100 has underperformed versus its continental counterparts as the rally in the pound is holding the index back.

“The international nature of the British equity benchmark means that some stocks are hurt by a firmer pound because of the exposure to overseas markets.

“Central banks and Government have been throwing money at the health crisis and it seems that some of it is starting to stick, which is why stocks are firmly higher.”

Sterling rebounded from its recent 1980s-matching lows, gaining more ground against the dollar and euro.

The value of the pound rose 2.01% versus the US dollar at 1.170 and was up 1.85% against the euro at 1.096.

Europe’s major markets jumped higher and still made strong gains despite slipping slightly from intraday peaks.

The German Dax increased by 3.7%, while the French Cac moved 5.01% higher.

Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones moved only marginally higher when the markets opened, as traders were more cautious than their European counterparts.

In company news, banking stocks had a poor showing on Friday, with the likes of Lloyds and Barclays pressing down on the FTSE 100.

However, travel and leisure stocks rebounded as traders looked to make corrections for heavy sell-offs earlier in the week.

Marks & Spencer saw shares tumble after it froze all pay rises and suspended all spending not seen as absolutely essential as it warned that its clothing and home lines would take a severe hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer warned that profit is likely to be at the lower end of its expectations, even as it massively slashed spending.

Shares in the high street giant fell by 8.2p to 107.8p at the close of trading.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon saw shares leap higher despite founder Tim Martin warning that falling sales at the chain have dropped further after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told punters to stay at home and not visit Britain’s pubs.

The pub chain said that sales, which had risen by 3.2% in the previous six weeks, started falling by 4.5% in the week ending March 15, as the coronavirus pandemic scared customers off. Shares were 140.5p higher at 700p at the end of trading.

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group moved marginally higher after it warned that the impact of coronavirus would see it miss profit targets for the year. Shares rose 4.2p to 230.4p.

The price of oil started in the red on Friday as dealers banked in their profits from Thursday’s mammoth rally, before edging higher later.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil increased 1.31% to 28.52 US dollars.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Carnival, up 148.6p at 885.8p, JD Sports, up 59.8p at 379.2p, EasyJet, up 92.8p at 600p, and Intercontinental Hotel Group, up 368.5p.

The biggest fallers of the day were M&G, down 15.3p at 110.6p, Auto Trader, down 50.3p at 377.2p, Rightmove, down 54.1p at 420.9p, and Schroders, down 205p at 2,350p.