UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 ends in the red for third session as Vodafone, Reckitt drag

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 ends in the red for third session as Vodafone, Reckitt drag
Credit: © Reuters.

* FTSE 100 down 0.4 pct; FTSE 250 up 0.2 pct

* Vodafone falls after South African unit disappoints

* Reckitt slips after downgrade

* St James's Place outperforms main index

* Fevertree jumps after upbeat update (Adds company news items, adds closing prices)

By Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 ended lower for the third consecutive session on Thursday as weak sector earnings hurt Vodafone and Rentokil while comments from the U.S. Commerce Secretary cast doubt over the prospects for a resolution of the trade dispute with China.

The FTSE 100 .FTSE closed down 0.4 percent, on track for its worst weekly performance since early December, while the more domestically focused FTSE 250 .FTMC edged higher by 0.2 percent.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the United States and China were "miles and miles" from resolving their trade issues, but added that there was a fair chance the two countries would strike a deal. VOD.L fell 3.5 percent to its lowest since November after its South African unit reported a slowdown in service revenue growth and was the biggest drag on the blue-chip index. control company Rentokil RTO.L was also among big fallers, sliding 3.3 percent after results at U.S. peer Rollins ROL.N missed Wall Street expectations.

Broader sentiment continued to outweigh Brexit uncertainties. The European Parliament's Brexit group said it would not approve a Brexit deal that did not contain a full "backstop" provision to avoid a hard Irish border.

European companies have been stockpiling inventories and setting up units outside the UK ahead of Brexit. The latest jolt came from Airbus AIR.PA , which warned it could shift wing-building out of Britain in the absence of a smooth exit from the European Union. a looming March 29 deadline, there is very little clarity on how Britain's exit from the EU will pan out. The uncertainty was a major factor behind the European Central Bank downgrading its growth risk assessment, according to ECB President Mario Draghi. Waite, portfolio manager at Walker Crips Investment Management, said that with various permutations of possible Brexit, it is "really impossible to say with any certainty what road we're going to go down".

Consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser RB.L fell 3.3 percent to a more than eight-month low as Jefferies downgraded the stock in the wake of the departure of its longstanding CEO.

Outperforming the index was wealth manager St James's Place SJP.L , which climbed 2.2 percent after beating forecasts for net inflows of client cash in a tough fourth quarter for global markets. after noon, British Airways owner IAG ICAG.L jumped to session highs after it ruled out a bid for Norwegian Air NWC.OL and said it would sell its remaining stake in the budget airline. IAG added 0.3 percent on the day. mid-caps were buoyed by financial stocks, led by a more than 10 percent bounce in Metro Bank MTRO.L and Sanne Group SNNS.L . Both stocks had slumped in the previous session in news-related moves.

Earnings also impacted mid-cap shares. Frankie & Benny's owner Restaurant Group RTN.L was the top faller, down 4 percent after predicting lower full-year like-for-like sales.

Just Eat JE.L added 2.4 percent after a JP Morgan upgrade while homebuilder Crest Nicholson CRST.L shed 2.1 percent, with a trader citing a rating downgrade.

CMC Markets CMCX.L rose 2.8 percent as the Sino-U.S. trade tensions boosted client activity on its online trade platform in the third quarter. Shares of rivals IG Group IGG.L and Plus500 PLUSP.L also rose. small-caps, NCC Group NCCG.L tanked 31 percent to its lowest since April 2017 after it guided to lower full-year EBIT and said sales in the UK were held back by softer demand.

AIM-listed tonic water maker Fevertree FEVR.L jumped 13.5 percent on its best day in more than 14 months after guiding to an almost 40 percent surge in full-year revenue.

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