British shares edged up on Tuesday as a strong Europe-wide market rally after the first round of the French election dissipated, with investors’ focus back on corporate results which indicated tougher times ahead for consumer goods stocks.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.2 percent, with energy and healthcare stocks supporting gains while earnings were mixed. 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 was on course for its worst day since the Brexit vote last June, down 7.4 percent after it indicated tougher times were ahead, saying it expected consumer confidence to dip this year.
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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 7.3 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 especially sensitive to the post-election rally, down 1.4 percent. Miners Antofagasta, Anglo American and Randgold Resources fell 1.3 to 2 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 1.3 to 1.7 percent, tracking gains in the Europe-wide pharma sector after Fresenius picked up the pace of dealmaking with its acquisiton of U.S. Akorn Inc and an arm of Merck. The mid-caps touched a new record high in early trading, up 0.2 percent.
Chemicals firm Elementis jumped 5.6 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; Editing by Angus MacSwan)