FTSE 100 pulls back slightly after striking new record

The FTSE 100 made gains on Wednesday but retreated after hitting an all-time record during a morning rally.

Trading sentiment had been lifted by optimism that the UK could avoid recession this year after a report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR).

As a result, it rose as high as 7,934.3 points to pass the previous peak it reached on Friday.

However, it drifted back slightly after a cautious opening for US markets.

London’s top index moved 0.26%, or 20.46 points, higher to finish at 7,885.17.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: “While the index did make a new high, investors have not been too keen to push it much further.

“As corporate reporting slows down in the UK as well as in the US, a period of retracement might not be out of place.

“Nonetheless, the outlook for the year seems much better now that recession fears have eased.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the German Dax rose by 0.6%, while the French Cac 40 dipped by 0.18% at close.

Across the Atlantic, the main US markets opened slightly lower as Tuesday’s exuberance ebbed away, after trading had been buoyed by US Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell’s comments that 2023 should be a year of “significant declines in inflation”.

Sterling was robust as it was supported by the positive NIESR forecasts.

The pound was up by around 0.15% to 1.206 US dollars, and by 0.22% to 1.126 euros at market close in London.

In company news, BP was among the top risers after it unveiled underlying profits of 27.7 billion dollars (£23 billion) for last year on Tuesday and confirmed it would scale back plans to reduce oil and gas production in the longer term.

The oil major was 16.8p higher at 533.2p at the end of the session. The stock hit its highest levels since July 2019.

Housebuilder Barratt Development finished in the green after it revealed early signs of a recovery in homebuyer demand as mortgage rates start to ease back.

The group recorded a “modest uplift” in reservations this month, though its weekly net reservation rate remains 46% lower year-on-year since the start of January. Shares were 7.8p higher at 467.9p at the close.

Packaging giant Smurfit-Kappa closed lower despite posting significant increases in profits and revenues for the past year.

The company told investors that operating profits before exceptional items moved 55% higher, after a 27% increase in annual revenues.

Shares dropped by 115p to 3,373p amid worries of a slowdown in key markets.

The price of oil edged higher as it benefitted from a surprise fall in US inventories and Mr Powell’s dovish comments.

Brent crude oil increased by 0.32% to 83.96 US dollars (£69.44) per barrel when the London markets closed.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were BT Group, up 4.45p to 138.2p, BP, up 16.8p to 533.2p, Next, up 134p to 6,860p, Persimmon, up 29p to 1,493p, and Hiscox Ltd, up 21p to 1,147p.

The biggest fallers were DS Smith, down 14.7p to 350p, Smurfit Kappa Group, down 115p to 3,373p, Mondi, down 35.5p to 1,520.5p, RS Group, down 22p to 990p, and Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, down 11.4p to 757p.