(ShareCast News) - London stocks nudged higher, while the pound lost ground against the dollar after data showed UK retail sales fell again in January.
At midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2%. to 7,293.90. Meanwhile, the pound was down 0.6% to $1.2412, having traded at $1.2449 just ahead of the sales data.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed retail sales unexpectedly fell last month, a sign that consumers are beginning to feel the squeeze amid a rise in inflation.
Sales were down 0.3% on the month, missing economists' expectations of a 0.9% increase and following a downward-revised 2.1% drop in December.
In the three months to January, sales were down 0.4% compared to the previous quarter, marking the first fall since December 2013.
On the year, retail sales rose 1.5%, undershooting expectations for a 3.4% jump. Meanwhile, sales excluding auto fuel declined 0.2% on the month and 2.6% on the year.
The report also showed that average store prices including fuel rose 1.9% compared with January 2016, which is the largest year-on-year price increase since July 2013.
ONS senior statistician Kate Davies said: "In the three months to January, retail sales saw the first signs of a fall in the underlying trend since December 2013. We have seen falls in month-on-month seasonally adjusted retail sales, both in conventional stores and online, and the evidence suggests that increased prices in fuel and food are significant factors in this slowdown."
Earlier this week, data revealed that wages in the UK were not improving, even as inflation hit its highest level since mid-2014.
Joshua Mahony at IG said: "UK retail sales failed to live up to expectations this morning, with the reading posting its second consecutive negative reading for the first time since early 2016. Probably the biggest warning sign was the December revision, which showed that in declining 2.1%, that month saw the second biggest fall in retail sales for 20 years. With a weaker pound, the idea was that people would spend more, yet recent months have instead shown that falling consumer confidence could be having a material impact upon spending."
Investors in London were also continuing to mull over comments by US President Donald Trump at a press conference on Thursday, when he said that tax reform proposals would come only after a push to replace Obamacare in March. He also claimed he had inherited a "mess" from former President Barack Obama.
In corporate news, AstraZeneca pushed higher after the pharmaceuticals giant reported positive results from its Phase III OLYMPIAD trial of its breast cancer treatment Lynparza (olaparib).
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels gained ground after it reported a dip in 2016 pre-tax profit but said group revenue per available room rose 6.6% to £76.71.
Segro rallied after its full-year earnings per share and net asset value came in ahead of analysts' expectations.
Paper and packaging company Mondi got a boost as JPMorgan Cazenove upgraded its stance on the stock to 'overweight' from 'neutral'.
On the downside, Essentra slid after the plastic and fibre products manufacturer issued a profit warning for 2017.
Hansteen nudged lower as it announced it has made an offer for Industrial Multi Property Trust, valuing the group at £25.2m.
Satellite communications provider Inmarsat slumped as UBS downgraded the stock to 'sell' from 'neutral'.
Datafeed and UK data supplied by NBTrader and Digital Look.
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