FTSE 100 ends flat as weak GDP data keeps recession fears alive

By Siddarth S and Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) -London’s FTSE 100 was flat on Wednesday after data showed July economic output contracted at the fastest pace this year, sparking recessionary concerns, while a boost from Aviva offset some declines from earlier in the session.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 index ended a choppy session unchanged at 7,525.99 points, snapping a four-day rally. Sterling weakened as much as 0.4% against the U.S. dollar, which also helped ease the falls on the FTSE 100.

British economic output contracted by a larger-than-expected 0.5% in July from June, data showed, worse than what economists had forecast in a Reuters poll that pointed to a 0.2% retreat in gross domestic product (GDP).

The data underlined signs that the economy is weakening, perhaps by more than the Bank of England (BoE) had expected ahead of its policy meeting on Sept. 22, where the central bank is expected to raise interest rates by 25 basis points (bps) to 5.5%.

“Rate hikes may be biting more, consumer resilience to squeezed income may have weakened, and/or global trends may be dragging more,” said Robert Wood, UK economist at BofA Global Research.

“This cuts upside risks to our call for only one more 25bp rate hike, and modestly raises the risk of a September pause.”

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan on Wednesday cut their forecasts for the UK’s full-year 2023 GDP after the July GDP data.

Aviva jumped 4.6% as it said it was quitting its Singlife joint venture, selling its 25.9% stake in Singapore Life Holdings and two debt instruments to Sumitomo Life for a combined 800 million pounds ($997 million).

Mid-cap stocks rose 0.1%.

BP fell 2.8% after the oil company said CEO Bernard Looney had resigned on Tuesday, with immediate effect, for failing to fully disclose details of past personal relationships with colleagues.

Homebuilders rose about 3.0%, boosted by a more than 6.1% gain in Redrow after it reported results.

(Reporting by Siddarth S and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; editing by Sonia Cheema and Mark Heinrich)