UK stocks fall after data signals waning consumer demand; Ashtead slides

By Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -The UK’s FTSE 100 edged lower on Tuesday, after a barrage of data prompted worries about waning consumer demand in the economy, while equipment discount retailer B&M’s shares fell on acquisition of assets from Wilko.

Both the blue-chip FTSE 100 index and the midcap FTSE 250 index slipped 0.2%.

Data showed business activity in the UK services sector fell in August for the first time since January, while Asian and European markets came under pressure post soft readings in both China and the eurozone, projecting weak consumer demand.

Commodity-linked stocks fell, with industrial metal miners down 0.8% after weak China data. [MET/L]

Across UK and Europe, retailers fell after brokerage J.P.Morgan cautioned on the European food retail sector, citing potential deflation in grocery prices. The subindex was down 1%.

B&M European Value Retail fell 3.4% and Tesco lost 2.8%, after JPM downgraded both the retailers. B&M shares were also hurt by the company’s decision to acquire 51 stores of collapsed Wilko.

Also, Barclays data showed growth in British consumer spending lost pace last month, adding to signs of a weakening economy.

“The cost of living headwinds are still strong and consumers are turning increasingly cautious,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“They’re spending on smaller beauty items in some ways, but it’s going to be a struggle for bigger ticket items.”

Another report showed that new car registrations in Britain rose for 13th consecutive month in August, rising more than 20% from year earlier. The automobiles and parts subindex was up 2.1%, leading gains.

Heavyweight energy stocks added 1.3%, tracking a spike in oil prices. [O/R]

Ashtead Group fell 2.9% after it lowered its annual UK rental revenue growth forecast, citing softening market conditions.

Premier Inn owner Whitbread rose 2.3% after Morgan Stanley raised the stock’s price target.

(Reporting by Siddarth S and Khushi Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonia Cheema, Dhanya Ann Thoppil, Alexandra Hudson)