UK equities rise on upbeat earnings, Watches of Switzerland slumps

By Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -British equities rose on Thursday, supported by a string of upbeat earnings from companies such as Flutter and Ferrexpo, while shares of Watches of Switzerland slumped after a bleak forecast, adding to fears about a luxury sector slowdown.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 ended 0.2% higher, recovering from a three-day slide.

Meanwhile, the mid-cap FTSE 250 index added 0.4%, its biggest gain in more than a week.

Flutter surged 15.3%, to the top of FTSE 100 after the online betting group reported a 15% rise in fourth-quarter revenue.

Rival Entain also rose 6.1%, while the broader travel and leisure index surged 6.7%, touching its highest level since August 2023.

Currys climbed 8.6% after the appliance and electronics retailer forecast full-year profit ahead of market expectations.

Elementis gained 6.3%, and lifted the chemicals index 1.1%, after the potash development company forecast annual adjusted profit slightly above market expectations.

Gains on the midcap index were led by a 16.9% jump in Ferrexpo after the iron ore pellet producer announced an interim dividend.

In contrast, Watches of Switzerland was the biggest drag on FTSE 250, tumbling 36.7%, after the luxury watch retailer cut its annual revenue forecast as economic headwinds prompted consumers to curb non-essential spending.

“The relative weakness in the Chinese economy, interest rate sensitivity in developed markets and potentially slower growth in 2024 could impact discretionary spending,” said Richard Flax, chief investment officer at Moneyfarm.

Luxury retailer Burberry issued a profit warning last week, following lower than expected sales growth in China in its final quarter of the year.

The personal goods index, that houses luxury stocks in the UK, nosedived 8.6%, touching lowest levels since October 2012.

Meanwhile, J.P.Morgan expects the Bank of England to start cutting interest rates in August this year, citing a possible easing in inflation and optimism about a soft landing for the economy.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar, Khushi Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala, Varun H K and Jane Merriman)