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Britain's FTSE edges up, Whitbread sinks on deteriorating consumer outlook
April 25, 2017 / 3:51 PM / 7 months ago

Britain's FTSE edges up, Whitbread sinks on deteriorating consumer outlook

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* FTSE 100 up 0.15 pct

* Whitbread sinks on weak sales, tougher outlook

* Carpetright shares dented by slowing sales growth

* Healthcare stocks rise on European dealmaking

By Helen Reid

LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - British shares edged higher on Tuesday as a strong Europe-wide market rally after the first round of the French election dissipated and investors focused on corporate results which indicated tougher times ahead for consumer goods stocks.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index ended up 0.15 percent, with financials, energy and healthcare stocks supporting gains.

The FTSE’s rise on Monday had been modest compared to European and French benchmarks, with investors flagging obstacles ahead for the UK market.

“The UK has its own esoteric risks at the moment, with its own election and the bigger ongoing Brexit issue,” said Laura Foll, Henderson UK equity income and growth manager.

Restaurant and pub owner Whitbread and floor-covering retailer Carpetright were the top blue-chip and small-cap fallers after their results were hit by slowing sales growth, adding to evidence of deteriorating UK consumer confidence.

Whitbread scored its worst day since the Brexit vote last June, ending down 7.2 percent after it indicated a tough market ahead, predicting a dip in consumer confidence this year.

Its Costa Coffee chain saw like-for-like sales fall, and margins down 0.8 percentage points year-on-year due to a rise in the minimum wage.

“[The valuation] feels fairly full to us, reflecting embedded value within Whitbread’s core two brands, but with waning UK consumer dynamics likely to cap near-term growth prospects,” Panmure Gordon analysts said.

Small-cap Carpetright, Britain’s biggest floor covering retailer, fell 8.1 percent after the firm said full-year profit would be at the lower end of market expectations, also citing tougher trading conditions.

Some of the stocks that rallied most on Monday fell back on Tuesday, with Kingfisher, whose French exposure made it more sensitive to the post-election rally, down 3.2 percent.

Miners Antofagasta, Anglo American and Randgold Resources fell 0.3 to 2.6 percent, holding back the blue-chips.

Goldman Sachs cut Anglo American to neutral in a broader downgrade of the mining sector, citing the commodity price outlook.

Healthcare stocks Hikma and Shire were top gainers, up 3.4 and 1.4 percent respectively, tracking gains in the Europe-wide pharma sector after Fresenius picked up the pace of dealmaking with its acquisition of U.S. Akorn Inc and an arm of Merck.

The mid-caps touched a new record high in early trading before reversing course and end down 0.1 percent.

Chemicals firm Elementis jumped 5.2 percent after its trading update showed strong growth in personal care and energy business sectors, and it reiterated aims to grow operating profit across its three segments this year. (Reporting by Helen Reid; Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Richard Lough)

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