FTSE hits sixth consecutive all-time high

European stock edge slightly upwards as Dow falters

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow faltered on Thursday as FTSE soared.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow faltered on Thursday as FTSE soared.

 

The FTSE hit its sixth consecutive all-time high on Thursday as European stocks edged slightly upwards and the Iseq finished the day just ahead.

The highs in London were fuelled by housebuilders with Kingspan leading the way at home.

Oil prices fell back a little on worries over US stockpiles and the euro was up against the dollar and sterling

Dublin

The Iseq overall finished the session ahead by just over 0.5 per cent, as trading volumes returned closer to normal following the holiday season.

Tullow Oil, which keeps its main listing on the London market, was unchanged in Dublin, despite announcing on Thursday morning that its chief financial officer is to take a leave of absence from the company for medical treatment.

He is to be replaced on an interim basis by its vice president for finance.

Irish bank stocks were down, a day after the release of exchequer figures and as concerns mount that the mortgage arrears situation may yet affect the market. Bank of Ireland finished the day down 3 per cent, while Permanent TSB, which is almost completely State owned, was down 1.7 per cent.

On the upside, some of the Iseq’s biggest globally focused stocks performed strongly. Insulation group Kingspan was up 3.5 per cent, while paper and packaging group Smurfit Kappa was up 2.9 per cent.

Ryanair finished the session up 1.64 per cent.

London

Housebuilders have propelled the FTSE 100 to its sixth consecutive all-time closing high after Persimmon reported a double-digit rise in half-year sales. London’s top flight index edged higher by 0.08 per cent or 5.57 points to set a closing record of 7,195.31, creeping past its previous high of 7,189.74 set on Wednesday.

The FTSE also logged its best mid-session performance at 7,211.96 points in early trading on Thursday. The biggest winners were housebuilding stocks, pulled higher by Persimmon, which rose 130p to 1,940p as it cheered “healthy” demand amid a 10 per cent surge in half-year sales despite uncertainty after the Brexit vote.

The trading update was further good news for house builders, which were already on the rise after Deutsche Bank said there was “appealing value” in the sector.

Taylor Wimpey shares jumped 8p to 169.4p, while Barratt Developments rose 13.6p to 497.5p. Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: “House builders are enjoying a very accommodative environment – rising demand, undersupply of new homes, ultra-low interest rates and good mortgage availability, and a supportive Government policy scheme in Help to Buy. “No wonder they are set to be among the biggest dividend payers on the FTSE this year.”

In currency markets, US dollar weakness sent the pound higher by 0.7 per cent to 1.241. The greenback lost ground after ADP employment data showed weaker-than-expected jobs creation across the US in December.

Against the euro, sterling was down 0.3 per cent at 1.170. In oil markets, Brent crude was down 0.35 per cent at around $56.22 per barrel after data showed US crude stockpiles rose in the final week of December

Sports Direct shares rose 5.8p to 274.1p after the company recommenced share buy-backs, having paused the programme last year following a drop in half-year profits.

Rising gold prices buoyed miners including Fresnillo up 84p at 1,398p, and Randgold Resources up 305p at 6,705p.

Europe

European stocks were little changed as a sharp drop in the US dollar raised concerns that a rebound in the euro would weaken the region’s corporate earnings.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.1 per cent at the close. The benchmark is up 1.2 per cent in the new year, helped by expectations of an acceleration in economic growth and inflation.

The French Cac 40 and German Dax both closed flat.

The euro climbed 1 per cent, adding to a 0.8 per cent increase on Wednesday, after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting showed the central bank more concerned about a strong dollar potentially delaying higher interest rates than the market expected.

New York

Major US stock indexes were poised for their first loss of the year on Thursday as investors dumped Macy’s and Kohl’s after the department stores reported dismal holiday sales.

US stocks have wavered over the past three weeks following a strong surge in the wake of the November election, with investors expecting President-elect Donald Trump to stimulate the economy through tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

Many on Wall Street want evidence that his campaign-trail promises will be approved by Republican lawmakers and come to fruition.

“The market is consolidating, waiting for first-quarter earnings and then waiting for the Trump agenda and the rhetoric in Washington and how much of that will go forward,” said Jeff Zipper, managing director for investments at Private Client Reserve at US Bank in Palm Beach, Florida.

Department stores Macy’s dropped 14 percent while Kohl’s slumped 19 percent after the companies said their holiday sales fell more than expected.

The warnings swept up other department stores in their wake – Nordstrom fell 7.9 per cent and JC Penney fell 6.2 per cent.

Online retailer Amazon, which has been eating into the sales of brick-and-mortar retailers, rose 2.8 per cent. The stock provided the biggest boost to the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 financial index fell 1.3 percent and was set for its worst day since September, pulled lower by JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

In afternoon trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.29 per cent at 19,884.52 points, while the S&P 500 had lost 0.17 per cent to 2,266.82. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.07 per cent to 5,480.94. decliners.

– Additional reporting Reuters/Bloomberg