By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
Pound stays under pressure, helping stocks, as May scrambles to nail Brexit issue
U.K. stocks edged higher Thursday, aided by a fall for the pound that has been driven by worries over the progress of Brexit negotiations, especially about whether Prime Minister Theresa May can bring warring allies into line over what should come next.
But mining shares dragged on London's blue-chip benchmark, after a warning that Chinese banks may not have enough capital to weather potential losses.
Deal news was brewing in the betting industry, sending shares of Ladbrokes Coral PLC and William Hill PLC higher in the mid-cap market.
What markets are doing: The FTSE 100 index was up 0.1% at 7,352.36, with tech, industrial and consumer goods shares moving higher. But the basic materials, telecom and oil and gas groups were in the red. On Wednesday, the benchmark rose 0.3%, and a win Thursday would be its second in a row.
The pound traded at $1.3373, down from $1.3394 late Wednesday in New York. Against the euro, sterling bought EUR1.1339, down from EUR1.1353.
What's moving markets: The International Monetary Fund has called for banks in China to bump up their capital buffers in the wake of a credit boom in the world's second-largest economy. In a review of China's financial system, the IMF said lenders may not have enough capital to weather potential losses from those credit risks.
Mining stocks in the U.K. can be sensitive to developments in China, where companies are big buyers of precious and industrial metals.
Closer to home, worries over the progress of Brexit negotiations and in particular the chances for a deal on the Irish border issue have been weighing on the pound and aiding stocks. A weaker pound can help shares of exporters on the FTSE 100, as it boosts the value of foreign sales. Around 75% of revenue for the index's components are generated overseas.
Investors are focused on whether the U.K. can nail a deal on the Irish border, the last of three Brexit issues that have to be resolved before Friday, a deadline set by lead EU negotiator Michel Barnier (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/06/uk-has-48-hours-to-agree-potential-deal-or-brexit-talks-cannot-progress). EU leaders are meeting Dec. 14-15 in Brussels, where they will assess whether sufficient progress in the U.K. withdrawal talks to move onto the next stage of trade and transition arrangements.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is working on a new proposal for the Irish border that she will present by Thursday, Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, according to media reports. A dispute with May's Northern Ireland political allies over the issue of whether to have a "hard" or "soft" border scuttled a potential deal on Monday.
Stock movers: In the basic materials sector, which makes up a roughly 8% weighting on the FTSE 100, shares of Rio Tinto PLC (>> Rio Tinto plc) (>> Rio Tinto plc) (>> Rio Tinto plc) fell 1%, Anglo American PLC (>> Anglo American) lost 0.7%, Fresnillo PLC (>> Fresnillo) gave up 0.3%, and BHP Billiton PLC (>> BHP Billiton Plc) (>> BHP Billiton Limited) (>> BHP Billiton Limited) moved 0.2% lower.
Topping the FTSE 100, broadcaster Sky PLC (>> Sky) rose 2.2%. CNBC reported this week that Sky stakeholder 21st Century Fox Inc. (>> 21st Century Fox) is closing in on a deal to sell some assets to Walt Disney Co. (>> Walt Disney Company (The)) .
Ladbrokes Coral Group PLC (LCL.LN) surged 26% on the mid-cap FTSE 250 index as the bookmaker is in GBP3.9 billion takeover talks with GVC Holdings PLC (>> GVC Holdings)
William Hill PLC (>> William Hill) shares climbed 2% as that bookmaker agreed to support Scientific Games Corp.'s (>> Scientific Games Corp) proposed acquisition of NYX Gaming Group Ltd. (>> NYX Gaming Group Ltd) . As part of the agreement, William Hill plans to sell the 6.8 million NYX ordinary shares it owns to Scientific Games.
Other advancers on the FTSE 100 include equipment rental company Ashtead Group PLC (>> Ashtead Group) and building materials company CRH PLC , which were up 1.4% and 1%, respectively.
Stocks mentioned in the article : Rio Tinto plc
, GVC Holdings
, 21st Century Fox
, NYX Gaming Group Ltd
, William Hill
, Scientific Games Corp
, Ashtead Group
, BHP Billiton Limited
, Walt Disney Company (The)
, BHP Billiton Plc
, Anglo American