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Sterling weighs on Britain's FTSE, while Kingfisher takes flight
September 20, 2017 / 8:57 AM / 3 months ago

Sterling weighs on Britain's FTSE, while Kingfisher takes flight

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* FTSE 100 dips 0.2 pct as retail sales boost sterling

* Kingfisher soars 7 pct on profit beat

* Analysts still negative on retail sector

* Diageo falls on Indian alcohol regulation

* Rising restructuring costs hit Mitie

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Britain’s major share index dipped on Wednesday on a potentially debilitating jump in sterling after data showed retail sales unexpectedly surged in August.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent as the pound hit its highest so far for the day against the dollar. The index’s companies mainly earn in foreign currencies.

Retail sales picked up sharply in August despite inflationary pressures, boosting the chance’s of the Bank of England raising interest rates in November.

Traders were on tenterhooks ahead of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement expected after the close.

Banks fell back after having made strong gains in the previous session on hopes of interest rate hikes.

“We are in wait and see mode,” said Guy Ellison, head of UK equities at Investec Wealth & Investment.

“We don’t see much further opportunity from here for further multiple expansion of equity prices, but if you do take more money out of equities what do you do with it?” he added.

Europe’s biggest home improvement retailer Kingfisher stole the spotlight, jumping 6.5 percent after its first-half profit beat forecasts, though it struck a note of caution on the macroeconomic environment in the UK and France.

Kingfisher’s shares have sunk more than 15 percent so far this year, underperforming the European retail index.

“The stock has become significantly more attractive from a valuation perspective. Arguably it now discounts much of the group’s struggles,” said analysts at Davy Research.

Investors have reacted well to any good news from retailers facing a raft of structural challenges, and Kingfisher’s gains echoed Next’s surge last week after its first-half results exceeded expectations.

“Retailers face dollar-priced inputs and while hedges have given protection, those will be rolling off and that is painful particularly at a time when the consumer can ill-afford to pay more,” said Investec’s Ellison, who is underweight the sector.

“Ostensibly the sector starting to look cheap, but you don’t really want to dip back in again.”

Despite retail sales indicating a recovery, analysts continue to revise down earnings expectations for the FTSE 350 retail sector, IBES data showed.

Babcock gained 3.7 percent after the defence contractor said trading was in line with expectations, and outlook was unchanged.

“The order book and pipeline are stable and visibility continues to improve,” said Liberum analysts.

Among weights on the index, liquor maker Diageo fell 1.9 percent after saying first-half sales growth could suffer from a ban on selling alcohol near Indian highways, and the timing of Chinese New Year.

Mid-cap outsourcer Mitie fell 1.7 percent after its first-half results showed rising costs from its restructuring efforts after a string of profit warnings dented the stock.

Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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