By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
Vodafone lifts outlook; ITV shares are in the red
U.K. stocks stepped slightly higher Tuesday, eyeing their first win in four sessions, as corporate cheer and a drop in the pound following inflation data offset investor concerns about the U.K.'s political stability and the Brexit process.
Shares of Tesco PLC rose to top the FTSE 100 after a merger deal cleared a major hurdle.
What markets are doing: The FTSE 100 index rose 0.2% to 7,431.01, with telecoms, tech and consumer-services shares among advancers. But consumer goods and basic materials shares lost ground. On Monday, the London benchmark closed down 0.2% to reach its lowest level since late September.
The pound traded at $1.3087, down from $1.3115 late Monday in New York. Against the euro, sterling bought EUR1.1170, pulling back from EUR1.1240 late Monday.
What's moving markets: The pound fell back below $1.3100 and dropped against other currencies after annualized consumer price inflation held at a five-year high of 3%, just shy of a FactSet consensus estimate of 3.1%. The FTSE 100 remained higher as a softer pound can boost earnings for the index's many multinational companies and bolster shares in those firms. About 75% of FTSE 100 revenues are generated overseas.
The October inflation report showed growth in the input prices that factories pay slowed to its lowest level since immediately after last year's Brexit vote. The inflation report was the first since the Bank of England raised interest rates for the first time in a decade earlier this month.
The pound earlier Tuesday traded above the $1.31 handle after the U.K. government said late Monday that parliament will get a chance to vote on whether to accept the final Brexit deal. The currency has been under pressure after a Sunday Times report (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjJwKegh7vXAhVD2KQKHX25AqkQqUMILDAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thetimes.co.uk%2Farticle%2Ftory-turmoil-as-40-mps-say-may-must-go-kkg3w6l89&usg=AOvVaw0P3ydYgZ0X_1ThNri40pNZ) over the weekend said 40 Conservative members of Parliament have agreed to sign a letter of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May.
On Tuesday, parliamentary lawmakers will discuss a bill to repeal the law that allowed the U.K. to join the EU.
Check out:Is British leader Theresa May on her way out? Why that's the fear--and why it matters
What strategists are saying: "The pound dropped as predictions for an uptick to 3.1% [in the inflation reading] were not realized. It is likely to feel extra pressure going forward, particularly if CPI tops out at this level. The Bank of England's interest-rate hike earlier this month now looks more likely to be a 'one and done' move, with the next hike not expected until late 2018 at the earliest," said Jake Trask, FX research director at OFX.
"The feeling is that inflation has now peaked in the U.K., easing the spending squeeze on consumers. Attention will now turn to tomorrow's wage growth data, to see if the spread of CPI over wages narrows," he added.
Opinion:Brexit hard-liners are selling England by the pound
Stock movers: Tesco shares (>> Tesco) popped up 5.6% after the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority provisionally cleared a merger between Tesco and wholesaler Booker Group (>> Booker Group) . Booker shares off the FTSE 100 climbed 5.2%.
Meanwhile, J Sainsbury PLC (>> J Sainsbury) rose 1.6% after Kantar Worldpanel said the grocer's sales rose 2.6% in the 12 weeks to Nov. 5, the stronger performance of the so-called Big Four supermarkets. Shares of Wm Morrison Supermarkets (>> Wm Morrison Supermarkets) were up 0.4%.
Vodafone (>> Vodafone Group plc) (>> Vodafone Group plc) jumped 5.4% after the mobile-services company raised its outlook for fiscal 2018 , with pretax profit for the first half rising 55% year-over-year.
ITV PLC (>> ITV) shares were chopped down 2.7% after the broadcaster said its total external revenue dropped 1% in the first nine months of this year, but said it remains on track to meet full-year guidance.