Firmer pound weighs on FTSE 100 ahead of interim budget; Ashtead tanks

By Siddarth S and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) -UK’s FTSE 100 dipped on Monday, weighed by a stronger pound and a slide in shares of equipment rental firm Ashtead Group, while investors looked forward to a budget update later in the week.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 fell 0.1% as the pound strengthened 0.3%, touching a two-month high earlier in the session.

Ashtead Group dived 10.5%, logging its biggest single-day percentage drop in nearly four years after saying its annual profit would come in below market expectations.

Helping limit losses, heavyweight energy stocks added 1.0%, tracking a more than 2% jump in crude prices. [O/R]

The domestically-focussed FTSE 250 index, on the other hand, ended 0.2% higher.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his government would turn to cutting tax after a fall in inflation, speaking ahead of this week’s budget update when finance minister Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce how he will speed up the stagnant economy.

“Previous statements have been quite defensive… it’s the first real signal from the government that there’s comfort with where inflation is falling to and the rate at which inflation is falling,” Christopher Peters, trading floor manager at Accendo Markets said.

Personal goods led gains amongst the major FTSE 350 sectors, while Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology was the worst hit.

Preliminary readings of the November S&P Global UK Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) due later in the week would also be on investors’ radar.

Among other individual names, shares of the world’s largest catering firm Compass Point fell 2.0% after analysts gave a downbeat assessment of the company’s profit guidance for its next financial year.

Diploma jumped 11.2% after the technical products and services provider beat full-year adjusted profit estimates.

Antofagasta added 2.1% after BofA Global Research raised the Chilean miner’s rating to “buy” from “neutral”.

(Reporting by Siddarth S and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sohini Goswami, Shailesh Kuber, William Maclean)