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* FTSE 100 down 0.1 pct
* Retail sales data surprises, boosts sterling
* Next shines after trading update
By Helen Reid
LONDON, March 23 Britain's FTSE 100
edged down on Thursday after an unsteady start, with
surprisingly strong retail sales data boosting the pound and
triggering a move lower for the index whose constituents mainly
earn foreign currency.
British retail sales for February beat all economists'
expectations in a Reuters poll, jumping by 1.4 percent from
January, and triggering a jump in sterling.
Clothing retailer Next was up 7.2 percent and the
top FTSE gainer in heavy volume. It was set for its best day in
nine months after its results. It kept its guidance for 2017-18
from January when it issued a profit warning.
"The absence of fresh bad news is one source of support
today for a share price which has fallen from 80 pounds ($100)
to 42 pounds and a stock which has de-rated from an 18 times
multiple of all-time high profits to barely ten times depressed
profits," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
The stock has been the worst-performing large cap over the
last three months, down 21.5 percent to Wednesday's close.
Peer M&S was also a top gainer, up 3.4 percent.
The mid-cap index was up 0.2 percent. Results drove
big moves in individual stocks.
Online trading company IG Group was down 4.4
percent, a top faller after posting a 3.8 percent drop in
quarterly revenue as it earned less per client especially in the
United Kingdom and Ireland.
IG said regulatory uncertainty has had no impact on its
business so far. Britain's financial watchdog has been seeking
to tighten controls on the fast-growing spread-betting market.
"We continue to see the outcome of the FCA's consultation as
the biggest risk to IG," said analysts at Liberum. "In the
absence of any clarity about what new regulation looks like, the
business is impossible to forecast at this stage and therefore
we maintain our unrated rating."
Safety and medical company Halma was also among top
European gainers, up 5.7 percent after it posted strong order
growth. Its shares were set for their biggest one-day gains
since November 2015.
Investec analysts said the results were good enough to see a
re-rating in the stock which has suffered as investors rotated
Analysts at Liberum, however, saw the stock being further
pressured: "Halma remains at an elevated premium to the sector
despite a wobble in the Trump rally in recent days, we
believe reflation is a multi-year cycle and see further
compression of Halma's defensive premium."
Dixons Carphone was also among top mid-cap gainers.
The stock joined the FTSE 250 on Monday after being
demoted from the blue-chip index. Demoted stocks tend to see
increased trading in the days after transitioning as passive
index-tracking funds modify their positions to adapt to new
($1 = 0.7996 pounds)
(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Toby Davis)