UK stocks rise as weak factory data prompts rethink of peak rates

By Siddarth S and Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -Britain’s main stock indexes rose on Wednesday, with the mid-cap FTSE 250 recording its best session in over a month, as weak factory activity data fuelled expectations that the Bank of England may not have to hike interest rates for longer.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 rose 0.7%, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 index closed up 1.1% to mark its biggest percentage gain since July 19.

The pound eased after a survey showed a slump in Britain’s factory output and broader weakness in the face of higher interest rates, putting the economy on course to shrink during the current quarter.

Rate-sensitive real estate investment trusts (REITs) and housing stocks were among the top gainers on the day, as traders scaled back bets on where interest rates will peak. They currently expect rates to peak at 5.75% rather than 6%.

“The sharp slide in UK PMIs has given the UK real estate and housing sector a lift, as Bank of England peak rate expectations get revised lower,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

Globally investor focus will shift to the Jackson Hole Symposium starting Aug. 24, where major central bankers, including U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jeremy Powell, will share their views on the trajectory of global monetary policy.

The FTSE 350 precious metal and mining index climbed 3.8%, clocking its best session in nearly three months, as gold prices moved higher. [GOL/]

Industrial metal miners gained 1.5%, tracking copper prices, on improved Chinese demand prospects and a weaker dollar. [MET/L]

Shares in Reckitt Benckiser climbed 0.9% after the Dettol maker said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Carr would retire in March 2024 and be replaced by Nike’s Shannon Eisenhardt.

Rotork gained 2.2% after brokerage Peel Hunt upgraded the stock to “buy” from “add”.

Britain’s largest sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion’s shares slid 5.4% as U.S. athletic-wear retailer Foot Locker cut its annual forecast and sparked a sector-wide selloff.

(Reporting by Siddarth S and Khushi Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)