FTSE 100 ends slightly lower, as Tescos jump helps limit drop

U.K. stocks finished slightly lower Wednesday, erasing a bit of this weeks advance, as traders focused on the conflict in Syria.

Tesco PLC helped keep the FTSE 100 benchmarks losses in check, with the supermarket operators shares jumping after its results.

How markets are moving

The FTSE 100
UKX, -0.13%
fell 0.1% to end at 7,257.14, but remained up for the week, with a gain of 1%.

The pound
GBPUSD, +0.0353%
traded at $1.4199, rising from $1.4177 late Tuesday in New York.

Whats driving markets

In a fresh geopolitical concern for investors, the possibility of a U.S. strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared to be growing, with President Donald Trump and his administration working to rally international support. Talk of such a strike has been simmering since a suspected chemical-weapons attack killed civilians in Damascus over the weekend. It could draw the U.S. into a conflict with Russia, which backs the Assad regime.

Trump on Wednesday signaled that an attack using missiles was not far off. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and smart! he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, worries about a potential global trade war have persisted for weeks. While the Trump administration exempted most countries from recent U.S. tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, its targeting of Chinese goods has fanned fears.

Yet concerns appear to be ebbing this week, thanks to a less-aggressive stance on trade taken by Chinese President Xi Jinping in a key speech Tuesday.

Read: How Chinas Xi, without blinking on trade, got the stock market to cheer

And see: Heres how a trade skirmish could become a global trade war

What strategists are saying

Traders are tetchy over tensions surrounding the U.S., Russia and Syria, said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a note. Equity markets are off the lows of the session, but sentiment is from bullish.

Stock movers

Tesco shares
TSCO, +7.18%
climbed 7.2% for the FTSE 100s biggest gain after the U.K.s No. 1 grocer by market share declared its first year-end dividend in four years and said that its pretax profit increased multifold.

Evraz PLC shares
TSCO, +7.18%
a steel and mining company with operations in Russia but London headquarters rose 1.3% but still was down 12% for the week. Stocks with Russian links have been taking it on the chin this week after fresh U.S. sanctions announced on Friday that targeted Russian individuals and entities.

Check out: Russia ETFs tumble after sanctions

Off the FTSE 100, Asos PLC shares
ASC, -2.42%
tumbled by about 10%, but then pared losses and closed lower by 2.4%. The online clothing retailer said total capital expenditure is set to increase. It also said pretax profit for the first half of fiscal 2018 rose 10% as the number of visits to its website exceeded 1 billion for the first time.

Economic data

Manufacturing output in the U.K. fell on the month in February, adding to signs the economy had a slow start to 2018.

Dont miss: Brace for more poor action by U.K. stocks, says worlds largest asset manager

After the U.K. markets close, the minutes from the most recent meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve are expected. The release is scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern Time, or 7 p.m. London time.

Check out: 5 things to watch from minutes of the Feds March meeting

Related Topics United Kingdom London Stock Exchange London Markets Bank of England Europe European Markets

Quote References UKX -9.61 -0.13% GBPUSD +0.0005 +0.0353% TSCO +15.10 +7.18% ASC

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