UK’s FTSE 100 closes lower as energy stocks weigh; Autumn Statement in focus

By Shashwat Chauhan and Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -UK’s FTSE 100 fell for the third straight session on Wednesday as heavyweight energy stocks slumped tracking a drop in oil prices, while the interim budget update knocked the pound a leg lower.

The large-cap FTSE 100 eased 0.2%, while the mid-cap index climbed 0.7%.

British finance minister Jeremy Hunt said he would cut taxes for workers before an expected 2024 election and he gave businesses permanent investment incentives in a bid to speed up an economy that looks stuck in a slow growth rut.

“The market reaction has been pretty muted… a lot of everything that the Chancellor announced had been leaked to the press over the last few weeks,” said Dan Boardman-Weston, chief executive officer at BRI Wealth Management.

The pound shed 0.7% against the dollar, while UK government bond yields rose.

British pub stocks including J D Wetherspoon, Marston’s and Fuller, Smith & Turner rose between 1.5% and 2.2% after the finance minister said the government would freeze all alcohol duties until Aug. 1 next year.

Spirits giant Diageo added 1.3%.

NatWest Group fell 1.4% after Hunt said he would explore options for a NatWest retail share offer in the next 12 months.

The oil and gas sector dipped 2.1% as crude prices tumbled after OPEC+ producers delayed a meeting on output planned for Sunday, raising questions about the future course of production cuts.

Software company Sage reported an 18% rise in its full-year underlying operating profit, sending its shares to a record high. It closed 13.3% higher.

HSBC lost 1.1% after RBC downgraded the Asia-focussed lender’s stock to “sector perform” from “outperform”.

Entain jumped 5.9% on a report that activist investors have built positions in the Ladbrokes-owner.

Kingfisher slipped 7.0% after the home improvement retailer cut its annual profit forecast for the second time in three months.

(Reporting by Khushi Singh and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Shweta Agarwal, Alexandra Hudson)