By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
AstraZeneca shares fall after results; Hikma cuts guidance
Blue-chip stocks in the U.K. declined Thursday, as house builders fell following soft industry figures and as Burberry Group PLC shares tumbled the most in more than five years after a disappointing earnings report from the luxury-goods maker.
What markets are doing: The FTSE 100 index lost 0.6% to close at 7,484.10, setting it on track for a 1% weekly loss.
The pound rose to $1.3133, up from $1.3117 late Wednesday in New York.
What's moving markets: A widely watched survey on U.K. house prices showed slowing growth in October compared with September. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said its monthly house price balance dropped 5 points, to plus 1 in October, below a Wall Street Journal consensus estimate of a reading of plus 3.
"The combination of the increased cost of moving, a lack of fresh stock coming to the market, uncertainly over the political climate and now an interest rate hike appears to be taking its toll on activity in the housing market," said Simon Rubinsohn, RICS's chief economist.
Retailers were back in focus, with earnings reports in from Burberry and grocery-chain operator J Sainsbury PLC.
Stock movers: Burberry shares (>> Burberry Group) (>> Burberry Group) sank 10%, the worst drop since September 2012, according to FactSet data, after the company warned that it doesn't expect sales growth until fiscal 2021 . It also said it will sharpen its focus on the high-end market in part as it aims for high-single digit revenue growth and "meaningful operating margin expansion".
"By re-energizing our product and customer experience to establish our position firmly in luxury, we will play in the most rewarding, enduring segment of the market," said Burberry's Chief Executive Marco Gobbetti.
Shares of home builders were lower after the RICS survey. Persimmon (>> Persimmon) flopped down 4%, Barratt Developments PLC (>> Barratt Developments) dropped 3.6% and Taylor Wimpey PLC (>> Taylor Wimpey) gave up 2.9%.
Shares of Sainsbury (>> J Sainsbury) (>> J Sainsbury) ended 1.8% lower after the supermarkets chain cut its dividend after reporting a 41% decrease in pretax profit for the first half of the year.
AstraZeneca PLC (>> AstraZeneca) (>> AstraZeneca) fell 0.6% even as the drugmaker said third-quarter operating profit 12% to $1.15 billion , boosted by a one-off tax benefit. But product sales fell 3% stemming from the loss of the company's exclusivity on Crestor and Seroquel.
Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC (>> Hikma Pharmaceuticals) (>> Hikma Pharmaceuticals) ended 4.1% lower as the company cut its guidance for its generics unit for a third time.
Shares of Randgold Resources Ltd. (>> Randgold Resources)(>> Randgold Resources) fell 0.8% following a ratings downgrade to neutral from buy at UBS. "We did not see any a structural negative from RRS disappointing [third-quarter] results, but we feel less confident that the positive catalysts that we had expected to drive outperformance will materialize," said UBS.
U.K. growth outlook: The European Commission cut its 2017 forecast for U.K. GDP growth, to 1.5% from 1.8%.
"Economic growth in the U.K. has been slowing since the start of the year, as higher consumer prices constrained private consumption growth," the EC said in its autumn economic forecast.
It also expects growth to continue to slow during 2018 and 2019, with that year possibly posting a 1.1% rate of expansion if there are no major disruptions to trade as the U.K. exits the European Union.