London shares closed lower on Thursday, driven south by textiles and fashion stocks who were the biggest casualty of weaker-than-forecast retail sales data, as well as low-flying airline stocks after easyJet shares fell.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index never once gained on the day, and ended down 0.4% at 6,699.
The midcaps on the FTSE 250 index, which on Wednesday managed to recover above their pre-Brexit levels, continued to soldier higher and ended up 0.2% at 17.047. In a sense a psychological barrier was broken on Wednesday when the stocks crept over 17,000 and have remained there this session.
UK retail sales excluding petrol and diesel sales, fell by 0.9% in June – a faster pace than forecast at down 0.6%. June’s wet weather was blamed and although the period encompassed the European Union “Brexit” referendum, economists said it was too soon to speculate what impact the decision to quit the EU will have on the economy.
But away from the month-on-month numbers, it was textiles, clothing and footwear stores which took the brunt of the negative sales, recording a 7.2% drop in amount spent by shoppers in the 12 months to June. In fact, Textiles and clothing was the only sector to record a shrinkage in the period.
One of the day’s biggest fallers in money terms if not percentage terms was clothes retailer Next (LON:NXT) on heavy volume. It ended down 139p to 4896p, a 2.8% decline.
EasyJet closed down 5.1% at 1,069.99p after the British budget airliner reported a downbeat quarterly earnings report as a series of disruptions and difficulties have taken a toll on its sales. The stock was down 32% from pre-Brexit levels.
The FTSE AIM 100 Index closed up 0.2% at 3,525 while the FTSE AIM All-Share Index was up 0.2% to 738.
London gainers were 33%, losers 29% and unchanged were 39%.
The top gainer was IronRidge (LON:IRR) up 56% to 9.75p, still basking in the limelight of Wednesday’s news of finding more gold at May Queen Prospect in Australia.
The biggest faller was Gulf Keystone (LON:GKP) down 18% to 4.6p. On Wednesday it was announced the company’s shareholders are to vote on a dilution of its debt next month.
Shares in Fastjet took off by 62.2% to 37.5p after the African budget carrier launched a £19.2mln placing and open offer to fund a recovery plan.
New chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout wants the cash to bankroll a shake-up including a review of its fleet and the relocation of its head office to Africa.
But easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) descended 5.9% to 1060p as the Luton-based no-frills airline blamed 'Brexit', terrorism and strikes for lower revenue.
EasyJet also said it was difficult to predict fourth-quarter revenue due to uncertainty caused by the EU vote and the events in Turkey and Nice, which had hit consumer confidence.
Fastjet's rapid ascent breathed life into small-cap indices, with the FTSE AIM 100 rising 8.4 points to 3528 and the FTSE AIM All-Share gaining 2.15 points to 738.82.
EasyJet, meanwhile, was among stocks dragging the FTSE 100 Index 28.95 points lower to 6700.04.
The Footsie lost more ground after the European Central Bank held fire on an interest rate move following the UK's vote to leave the EU.
Euro-area policymakers were awaiting more data to work out what impact the referendum outcome could have on the eurozone economy.
There was more bad UK economic news as retail sales figures showed a 0.9% month-on-month drop in June, below the consensus of -0.6%.
The year-over-year growth rate dropped to 4.3% from 5.7% in May, below the consensus of 5%.
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said: "Higher prices, job cuts and the Chancellor’s decision not to immediately alter fiscal plans likely will bring the recovery in consumer spending to its knees."
In small-caps, Fastjet was the top riser but Science in Sport PLC (LON:SIS) jumped 10.6% to 52p as the sport nutrition company reported a 24% rise in sales to £6.48mln in the six months to the end of June.
Online white goods retailer AO World PLC (LON:AO.) ticked up 8.56% to 145.9p on news of higher sales in the UK and continental Europe.
Premier African Minerals Limited (LON:PREM) strengthened 11.5% to 0.72p as it said it expected to soon start a new exploration programme at the Zulu site in Zimbabwe to produce a compliant resource estimate after the potential for massive lithium-rich mineralisation was confirmed.
Preview at 6.53am
London’s FTSE 100 is seen a little lower on Thursday as investors in Europe await comments from Mario Draghi.
The European Central Bank president speaks later today, after the ECB’s latest policy decision.
There’s little expectation of any action from the ECB this month, given it is already injecting some €80bn of liquidity each month, though markets will likely hang on the words of the central banker as he talks Brexit and Europe.
Over the Atlantic, meanwhile, US stocks continue to push higher on the back of largely positive quarterly earnings.
“The S&P 500 continues to make new highs, backed by better-than-expected corporate earnings,” Chris Weston, analyst at IG Markets.
“While we have only seen 16% of US firms report, 78% have beaten expectations on earnings and 60% on sales.
“Those that have beaten on the EPS line have done so by an average of 5.6% and while there is still a large percentage of names to report, traders are extrapolating out across the curve.”
On Wednesday the Dow Jones gained 0.19% to 18,595, while the S&P 500 added over 0.4% to 2,173 and the Nasdaq advanced over 1% to 5,089.
In Asia, meanwhile, stock indices all pointed higher too.
Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.5% to 16,773, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng notched 0.8% higher 22,056, and the Shanghai Composite gained 0.7% to 3,050.
Australia’s ASX 200 climbed 0.45% to 5,512.
In London, IG Markets called the FTSE 100 20 points lower with the spread seen at 6,707 to 6,712 with a little over an hour to go before the start of stock market trading.