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Oil and banks stymie FTSE's rise, WPP hit by broker downgrade
July 7, 2017 / 9:19 AM / 3 months ago

Oil and banks stymie FTSE's rise, WPP hit by broker downgrade

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* FTSE 100 down 0.2 pct

* Energy, banks weigh on index

* Takeover talk lifts Centrica

* Broker changes move easyJet, Royal Mail, WPP

By Kit Rees

LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) - Falls in energy and bank stocks dampened an otherwise positive week for Britain’s top share index, while changes in broker recommendations prompted moves in easyJet, WPP and Royal Mail.

Britain’s blue chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.2 percent at 7,323.50 points at 0852 GMT on Friday, on track to post its first weekly gain since the end of May.

The index pared losses after weak housing data drove sterling to a nine-day low.

Oil & gas stocks dropped, taking around 8 points off the FTSE, after oil prices fell more than 1 percent following a rise in U.S. output, with Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L. and BP down 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

“Regardless of what OPEC try and do, it seems the supply overhang is preventing any kind of sustainable rally,” Ian Williams, strategist at Peel Hunt, said.

Financials were also weaker, with HSBC and Barclays both in negative territory, cooling after the sector hit its highest level since the end of February in the previous session on expectations of higher interest rates.

WPP was the biggest individual FTSE faller, dropping 3.2 percent, after Exane BNP Paribas cut the advertising firm to “underperform” and downgraded French peer Publicis to “neutral”, saying they need to evolve more quickly.

“Marketing is driven by mobile, nimbler brands, ecommerce and automation/AI. These areas are dominated by platforms where agencies are sparse, raising the risk of lower mid-term growth,” the analysts at Exane said in a note.

“WPP & Publicis have good track records of adapting to industry changes. We would buy once evidence they have adapted mounts, or on a much greater valuation discount,” Exane added.

Shares in Royal Mail were also down 3 percent after UBS cuts its rating to “sell” from “neutral”.

Shares in easyJet bounced around 4 percent after Credit Suisse upgraded it to “outperform” on the back of an improvement in summer trading.

Utility Centrica was the biggest gainer, up 5 percent on takeover rumours, although analysts at Jefferies were sceptical.

Outside of the blue chips, a strong trading update from retailer Dunelm sent its shares 5.4 percent higher to the top of the FTSE 250, which fell 0.4 percent. (Editing by Alexander Smith)

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