The FTSE 100 consumer staples and industrials stocks provided the top boosts to send it hovering near its highest intra-day level of 7,586.45 points hit earlier in the week. A weaker sterling initially provided a boost to the London-listed international stocks but the currency turned positive by the end of trading. Pressure on sterling has been intensifying over the past week as some opinion polls point to a tighter-than-expected UK general election race.
The latest poll published by the Times showed UK prime minister Theresa May’s lead down to just three percentage points ahead of the opposition Labour party, ahead of next week’s vote.
While the large company stocks were ahead on the day, they underperformed the broader European index. UBS Wealth Management warned that the boost to the FTSE 100 from the weak pound could be turning stale.
“The UK equity market’s tailwind from the weak pound is fading, and as we lap the currency low point during the second and third quarters of this year, the market will no longer receive a boost from currency effects,” said deputy head of the UK investment office Caroline Simmons.
“We have seen a relative underperformance of domestic-focused UK equities as political risk increases alongside the perceived uncertainty of the Brexit outcome,” said Edward Park, investment director at Brooks Macdonald.
However, Inmarsat gained 5.4% on the day, leading the way among European satellite companies, with France’s SES and Eutelsat also fuelled by speculation they could be takeover targets after sources said Softbank would let its planned $14bn merger between OneWeb and Intelsat collapse.
Gains among large-caps were broad-based and broker calls helped some specific stocks stand out.
Private equity firm 3I Group rose 3.2% after Barclays raised its price target on the stock, saying a trading update from Action management, which accounts for 30% of 3I’s portfolio, was reassuring and the group was confident on cash generation. Online car retailer Auto Trader hit a record high after Barclays upgraded the stock to “overweight”. Its shares were up 4.5%. National Grid Taylor Wimpey and Marks & Spencer had all gone ex-dividend on the day.
Business support services firm G4S and real estate investment trust Segro were confirmed as the latest additions to the blue-chip index, with changes effective on June 16.