UK shares fall as trade conflict worsens; miners hit

Oil majors BP and Shell also dragged down the main index as oil prices sank. (Reuters pic)

BANGALORE: London’s FTSE 100 fell on Wednesday as signs of an escalation in the China-US trade conflict, coupled with tensions over budgetary rules between Italy and the European Union, hurt demand for risk.

The main index was down 1.1% and the more domestically focussed midcap market 0.9% by 0801 GMT. All 10 blue-chip sectoral indices were in the red.

China’s Communist Party newspaper warned on Wednesday that Beijing was ready to use its dominance in rare earths to strike back against the United States in their increasingly bitter trade dispute.

London’s listed mining companies, focused on conventional industrial metals and a large part of the blue-chip index, fell from one-month highs amid worries about the trade war’s effect on global demand.

Oil majors BP and Shell also dragged down the main index as oil prices sank.

“Risk aversion has been on the rise as investors grow increasingly concerned over the impact that the ongoing trade dispute is having on the global economy,” London Capital Markets analyst Jasper Lawler wrote.

“Weakening macro data is heightening these concerns, fuelling fears of a global recession. An unresolved Brexit and rising tensions between Rome and the European Commission are adding to the gloomier outlook.”

British American Tobacco slipped 5.1% and was on course for its biggest daily loss since November, a day after data from Nielsen showed cigarette industry volumes fell in the four weeks to May 18.

House-builders Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley rose after a survey showed that British banks last month approved the greatest number of mortgages since February 2017.

Defensive stocks, including Severn Trent and United Utilities, considered less risky at times of political and economic uncertainty, also gained about half a percent each.

The flip side of the mining risk was a rise in prices of gold, considered a safe haven. Fresnillo advanced 2.1% and African venture Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd surged 11%.

Support services group Stobart jumped 10.5% after reporting a 39% surge in full-year revenue on the back of strong performances in aviation and energy.