London stocks stuck to the flat line on Friday, as geopolitical tensions continued to weigh on the U.K. index. Retailers were in the spotlight after upbeat government data and a Russian-linked commodity company was set for hefty gains.
U.K. retail sales rebounded in January as concerns about the effect of the omicron variant of COVID-19 eased. Sales volumes rose 1.9% from a month earlier, the Office for National Statistics said. That compares to a forecast for a 2% gain from economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.
“Better-than-expected retail sales suggest that, for now, the increased cost of living is not preventing Britons from hitting the shops,” said AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson, in a note to clients.
“Expect that to be tested through the course of the year with retailers likely to face an increasingly difficult quandary about how much of their increased costs they can pass on to customers and how much pain to endure themselves,” said Hewson.
But retailers were swinging into the black, with shares of B&M European Value Retail
up 1.5%, luxury goods maker Burberry
rising nearly 2% and Associated British Foods
Against the backdrop of a severe storm, utilities were in focus with National Grid
up 1.3%, United Utilites
up 1.5% and Severn Trent
rising 0.8%,. Storm Eunice triggered severe weather warnings, shutting down rail travel and caused havoc for planes trying to land at major airports, with winds projected at up to 80 miles an hour. Storms across Europe also disrupted travel.
a U.K.-listed steel company with operations in Russia, came under pressure again Friday, topping the decliners list with a 6% tumble. The shares have been swinging around this week as investors have closely watched tensions between the West and Russia over the latter’s massing of troops on Ukraine’s border.
Following a massive rally at the start of the week, Evraz shares are still headed for their best weekly return, of 10%, since August 2020.