The FTSE made progress this morning as the US and Iran seem for the moment to have stepped away from the brink of a conflict. President Trump’s less confrontational tone helped lift US markets during the Wednesday session and the upbeat mood shifted to Asia and Europe Thursday.
Another significant boost for the market came from the progress between the US and China as China’s chief trade talks envoy Liu He confirmed that he will be coming to Washington next week to sign the first phase of the Sino-US trade deal.
Big retailers struggle but smaller players come out tops
Now that the Christmas tinsel has been cleared away and UK retailers have done the math on their festive sales the numbers make for a sobering reading. Tesco reported slightly higher overall sales only because higher sales in Europe balanced out the weaker performance in the UK.
Marks & Spencer fared worse and is now forecasting gross margins at the lower end of its guidance given that sales were below expectations while John Lewis Partnership said it may not pay out bonuses following a decline in revenues.
The one standout performance came from home furnishings chain Dunhelm which managed to increase sales by 5.6% in the first half of its financial year.
Tesco’s shares rallied 2.75%, M&S shares took a 10% hit and Dunhelm rose 0.6%
Oil, gold lose momentum
Without the Iran wind in its sails Brent crude prices settled back in the $65-$66 range, trading up half a percent on the morning. If Iran news remains on the back burner some support could come from the signing of the US-China trade talks next week and also stock building ahead of the Chinese New Year later this month.
Gold has retreated from a 6-year highe it hit earlier this week and is trading down 0.8%.