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FTSE slightly higher on fund play

Absence of fresh trade tension news and a rally in Ferguson are helping the FTSE trade slightly higher. But the index’s anaemic rally is being held in check by the limbo ahead of the first Tory leadership vote and a plunge in Persimmon’s shares. Plumbing merchant Ferguson gained over 6% after an activist investor revealed it was a large buyer of the company’s shares.

Retailers' shares are also sliding. Tesco, the country’s biggest retailer, has just reported that it struggled to make profit in the last quarter and investors fear that its less cost efficient retail peers are likely to show even lower profits when they report later in the month.

For the moment the Tory party leadership contest is still a blur, with 10 candidates in the running, all offering mixed messages on Brexit. More clarity will be provided later this afternoon after a vote by Tory MPs narrows down the group. The pound is reflecting an overall lack of enthusiasm over the outcome of the vote, sliding against both the dollar and the euro.

The dollar is still digesting Wednesday’s unimpressive US inflation data which has reinforced investors’ expectations that the Fed will start cutting rates sooner rather than later. Money markets are also reacting in kind, with short term US Treasury yields pricing in further rate declines.

Concerns over tanker safety issues in the Arabian Gulf are pushing oil prices higher, lifting them from a dip below $60 Wednesday back to $61.75


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