London stocks finish higher ahead of Christmas break

By Shashwat Chauhan and Shubham Batra

(Reuters) -British equities logged solid weekly gains heading into the Christmas holidays on Friday amid rising hopes that major central banks, including the Bank of England, could consider interest rate cuts next year.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 edged 0.04% higher, extending gains to a fourth week, while FTSE 250 midcap index rose for a third straight week, up 0.3%.

The rally in global markets driven by the Federal Reserve’s dovish pivot and a surprise drop in domestic inflation boosted UK equities.

Britain’s economy might now be in a recession, according to data, which showed output shrank in the July-to-September quarter.

“The outlook for 2024 looks shaky with a sluggish consumer, ongoing price increases and more expensive borrowing costs,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor.

A separate reading showed that British retail sales volumes rose by 1.3% in November, compared with the month before.

The November U.S. Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge due later in the day, would be on investors’ radar.

Retailers were amongst the top decliners, down 0.7%, while construction and materials were the top gainers, adding 1.0%.

Heavyweight energy stocks added 0.4%, tracking rising crude oil prices as tensions persisted in the Middle East following Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, capping losses. [O/R]

Aerospace and defence was the best performing FTSE 350 sector this week, while personal goods was the worst hit.

The UK markets will be offline on December 25-26 on account of Christmas and Boxing Day holidays.

Among individual stocks, sportswear company JD Sports lost 5.1% after U.S. firm Nike, the world’s largest sportswear maker, trimmed its annual sales forecast, blaming cautious consumer spending.

(Reporting by Shashwat Chauhan and Shubham Batra in Bengaluru; Editing by Varun H K and Shweta Agarwal)