U.K. Stocks Decline Before Fed Policy Announcement
U.K. stocks declined, snapping four days of gains, as investors awaited the outcome of a Federal Reserve policy meeting for signals about when the central bank will scale back stimulus measures.
BT Group Plc (BT/A) slid 1.8 percent after saying Ian Livingston will step down as chief executive officer. Aggreko Plc (AGK) fell 5.3 percent as UBS AG lowered its recommendation on the shares. Berkeley Group Holdings Plc advanced 1.6 percent after saying annual profit rose 33 percent.
The FTSE 100 Index (UKX) fell 25.39 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,348.82 at the close in London. The equity benchmark has still lost 7.2 percent since Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said May 22 that the central bank could scale back stimulus if the U.S. economy improves sustainably. The broader FTSE All-Share Index retreated 0.3 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index gained 0.6 percent.
“The market is understandably thin, given the magnitude of Fed news flow expected after European trading hours,” said Guy Foster, the London-based head of portfolio strategy at Brewin Dolphin Securities Ltd., which oversees about $39 billion. “We’re likely to see a bit of volatility in the markets. We’ve already seen the last meaningful bits of data from the U.S. that could influence the Fed’s decision, so now it’s a case of waiting.”
The Federal Open Market Committee concludes a two-day policy meeting today, with Bernanke scheduled to address the press after European markets close.
BT dropped 1.8 percent to 313.7 pence after the U.K.’s biggest fixed-line company said Gavin Patterson, head of its retail division, will replace Livingston as CEO in September. Livingston will join the U.K. government as Minister of State for Trade and Investment, BT said in a statement.
Aggreko fell 5.3 percent to 1,660 pence for the worst performance on the FTSE 100. UBS downgraded the provider of mobile-power supplies to neutral from buy and lowered its forecast for the company’s 2014 earnings, citing a weaker market for power projects.
Evraz Plc slipped 1.7 percent to 115.3 pence after Aktualne.cz said the steelmaker will stop production at its Czech steel mill in July and part of August because of low demand. The news website cited Roman Durca, a trade union official.
Vodafone Group Plc declined 1.6 percent to 181.45 pence after people familiar with the matter said the U.K. carrier raised its preliminary offer to buy Kabel Deutschland Holding AG to about 7.5 billion euros, or 85 euros a share. The new proposal follows a preliminary bid from Liberty Global Inc. this week that was said to be valued at the same price.
Berkeley Group advanced 1.6 percent to 2,193 pence according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.K. homebuilder said annual profit rose to 209.7 million pounds ($328 million). Analysts had forecast 209 million pounds, according to the average of three estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
A gauge of retailers in the FTSE 350 Index added 0.9 percent. Tesco Plc, the U.K.’s biggest supermarket chain, gained 2.6 percent to 344.6 pence. Greggs Plc climbed 1.9 percent to 418.8 pence and Home Retail Group Plc increased 2.9 percent to 133.7 pence.
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