Brexit fears weaken sterling

The Parliament approved the Brexit Bill, allowing Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and start negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union.

Coupled with Monday’s call for a second Scottish independence referendum, the pound came under pressure against other major currencies.

Stock market investors were also pretty cautious, with the FTSE 100 remaining flat.

Hellmann’s mayonnaise maker Unilever (ULVR) and cigarette pusher British American Tobacco (BATS) helped the blue-chip index nudge higher to 7,381.

This offset weakness in high street banks Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds (LLOY) and Barclays (BARC).

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil bounced back and rose approximately 0.5% to $48.64 and $51.68 per barrel, respectively.

Gold and copper were stable at $1,202 per ounce and $5,776 per tonne.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

In the US, the market held steady as the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision continued to dominate the news agenda.

Asian markets remained subdued despite economic advisor to US President Donald Trump Steve Schwarzman stating that Trump will lay off his criticism of China.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Global insurance business Prudential (PRU) gained 3% as it reported record operating profit for 2016 and lifted the dividend 12% to 43.5p.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Building products distributor SIG (SHI) rallied 11.6% following the appointment of Brammer (BRAM) boss and turnaround expert Meinie Oldersma as its new CEO.

The news cushioned the blow of disappointing full year results as underlying pre-tax profits were 12.5% lower at £77.5m and the dividend cut to 3.66p (2015: 4.6p) so SIG can pay down debt.

Online supermarket Ocado (OCDO) made fresh gains on first quarter results, which unveiled 16.7% growth in average orders per week and a moderation in the decline in average order size, down 1.6% to £110.84. CEO Tim Steiner hinted that price deflation in the sector could be coming to an end thanks to sterling weakness.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Budget-friendly gym operator The Gym Group (GYM) sprinted 2.5% higher on full year results showing a swing into profit. Investors were reassured by an encouraging start to 2017 as January and February showed record membership levels. 2017 new gym openings were expected to be ‘towards the top end’ of the 15-20 site guidance.

Shares in fashion retailer French Connection (FCCN) were flat despite improved full year losses of £3.7m, compared to £4.7m loss in 2016. Management reported a strong performance for its Spring 17 range in the first six weeks of the new financial year.

Medical tech manufacturer Surgical Innovations (SUN) announced its operating profit swung from a loss of £1.98m in 2015 to £0.47m in the year to 31 December. The stock rose 6%.

Flat panel antennas maker MTI Wireless Edge (MWE) sparked 1.7% on news of a significant order book increase for 2017.

First Derivatives (FDP) sealed a collaboration deal with Airbus to explore commercial opportunities from processing and analysing Airbus’ satellite imagery assets using First Derivatives’ Kx technology.

Data erasing business Blancco Technology (BLTG) fell 18.3% despite delivering half year results broadly in-line with estimates, as recently appointed numbers man Keith Butcher resigned ‘with immediate effect’.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com