UPDATE 1-FTSE retreats as more drama hits UK retail

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
UPDATE 1-FTSE retreats as more drama hits UK retail
Credit: © Reuters.

* FTSE 100 down 0.3 pct, hits new 15-month low

* Moss Bros sinks 23 pct after profit warning

* Kingfisher bottom of FTSE 100

* FTSE 350 Retailers index lowest since Brexit

* Hammerson rises 5 pct in afternoon trading (Updates prices, adds details)

By Tom Pfeiffer and Helen Reid

LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - British shares fell to a new 15-month low on Wednesday as Kingfisher KGF.L and Moss Bros MOSB.L piled more bad news on a UK retail industry reeling from the surge in e-commerce.

Share declines accelerated after data showed British workers' pay had risen at the fastest pace in nearly two and a half years. That pushed up the value of the pound and hit shares in big multinationals and exporters. end to the sustained squeeze on UK household incomes was not showing through in the retail industry on Wednesday, however.

Formal clothing chain Moss Bros lost nearly a quarter of its market value after a profit warning it blamed on supply chain problems and fewer customers in its stores. Home improvement chain Kingfisher also reported a recent deterioration in trading. FTSE 100 index .FTSE ended the day down 0.3 percent, with Kingfisher falling 10.7 percent to its lowest level since November. Among other retailers, clothing chain Next NXT.L was down 1.2 percent and Primark owner ABF ABF.L fell 1.1 percent.

After holding steady in January and February, UK retailer shares .FTNMX5370 have tumbled 9 percent this month, outpacing a 3 percent drop in the wider FTSE 350 index .FTLC . The retail index is at its lowest since the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Underscoring the increasing power of online retail, U.S. ecommerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) AMZN.L overtook Google owner Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) GOOG.O by market value on Tuesday.

Despite the myriad problems facing UK retail, some investors are still venturing into some of the sector's riskiest stocks. such as British American Tobacco BATS.L , Diageo DGE.L and Unilever ULVR.L weighed on the FTSE as the pound rose nearly half a percent against the dollar following the wage growth numbers. Stanley strategists had been forecasting strong data that would pave the way for the Bank of England to deliver a hawkish statement when it meets on Thursday.

"It has been well established that a number of Bank of England officials are expecting wages to start outstripping headline inflation in the coming months, and a strong average earnings number today could well reinforce that narrative, and raise expectations of a move on rates in May, irrespective of yesterday's softening in headline CPI," said Michael Hewson, Chief Market Analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Investors were also awaiting the conclusion of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting for signals on the pace of expected interest rate rises.

Real estate investment trust Hammerson HMSO.L , which was thrown into the spotlight on Monday when it rebuffed a takeover bid from France's Klepierre LOIM.PA , rose sharply in afternoon trading, finishing up 5.2 percent.

Shares in Hammerson takeover target Intu Properties INTUP.L tumbled 4.3 percent at the same time.

Traders said merger arbitrage funds were unwinding their positions due to Klepierre's approach. They were previously long Intu and short Hammerson to play the deal's arbitrage spread, but the bid from Klepierre threw doubt on the acquisition. shorts on Hammerson likely pushed the shares up.

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