FTSE cools on Omicron fears
Traders had a subdued day after 48 hours of expectations rising that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 may not be as concerning as first thought.
But rising case numbers and persistent rumours that the UK Government would announce a series of further restrictions dampened the mood.
Even a falling pound, hitting levels not seen since almost a year ago, failed to help the FTSE 100 rise. It closed down 2.55 points, or 0.03%, at 7337.35.
Shares tend to rise when the pound falls as investments look “cheaper” to foreigners who trade in dollars.
Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, said: “Sterling has been on the receiving end of selling pressure today, with the UK seemingly on the cusp of a fresh bout of restrictions thanks to the rapid growth in Omicron cases.
“(Sterling vs the US Dollar) dropped into levels not seen since almost a year ago, with traders weighing up the monetary policy implications of future restrictions.
“Goldman Sachs has shifted their Bank of England rate expectations in response to this latest surge in Omicron, with analysts across many of the top investment banks expecting to see the MPC hold off in favour of a February rate hike.
“Travel and leisure stocks are also lagging behind in the UK, with recent optimism starting to wane on the prospect of greater Government oversight.”
In France and Germany markets took heavier hits, down 0.71% and 0.78% respectively.
As markets closed, a pound was worth 1.323 dollars and 1.168 euros.
Sterling has been on the receiving end of selling pressure today
Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG
In company news, package holiday firm Tui revealed winter holiday bookings have slowed due to fears over the Omicron variant and the changes to rules for passengers travelling overseas.
The firm revealed worse-than-expected annual group losses of 2.47 billion euros (£2.1 billion) for the year to September 30, although this narrowed from losses of 3.15 billion euros (£2.7 billion) in 2019-20.
Shares closed up 3.8p at 221.3p
Pete Redfern, the man who negotiated the creation of housebuilder Taylor Wimpey 15 years ago, has announced he will be leaving the company as chief executive next year once a full handover has taken place.
Shares closed up 1.5p at 169.3p
Stagecoach and National Express remain in discussions over a possible merger, as the former said the sector is seeing signs of recovery.
Pre-tax profits hit £31 million in the six months to the end of October and shares closed down 0.15p at 76.5p.
City broker Numis saw a surge in revenues by 39% to £215.6 million in the 12 months to September 30, with pre-tax profits doubling. The company said it enjoyed a boost from the high number of stock market listings.
Shares closed down 8p at 323p.
Berkeley Group said that it can now predict a 5% increase in its pre-tax profit over the next five years, as it comes close to completing homes at dozens of building sites.
The business said that pre-tax profit had increased by 26% to £290.7 million in the six months to the end of the financial year. Shares closed up 109p at 3,744p.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Admiral Group, up 81p at 3,102p; Berkeley, up 109p at 4,744p; Croda, up 225p at 10,285p; Flutter, up 205p at 11,245p; and Informa, up 8.9p at 505.8p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Darktrace, down 19.2p at 409.8p; 3i Group, down 49p at 1,405p; DCC, down 168p at 5,654p; Rolls-Royce, down 3.16p at 128.64p; and Smith & Nephew, down 27.5p at 1,252.5p.
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