By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
Sterling falls after disappointing U.K. retail sales
U.K. stocks gained Friday, adding to their weekly advance, boosted by Unilever PLC's jump on buyout-related news and the pound's drop after discouraging data on U.K. retail sales.
The FTSE 100 moved higher by 0.3% to 7,301.56, after trading in the red in morning action. The rise put the blue-chip benchmark on pace for a 0.6% gain for the week.
On Thursday, the index lost 0.3%, retreating from a one-month closing high reached in the prior session.
Shares in consumer-products giant Unilever PLC (ULVR.LN) (UNA.AE) (ULVR.LN) soared 14%, powered by U.S. packaged-foods heavyweight Kraft Heinz Co. (KHC) announcing that it made a merger proposal (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/kraft-heinz-confirms-merger-proposal-with-unilver-was-declined-2017-02-17) to Unilever that was declined.
The pound was trading at $1.2427, down from $1.2494 late Thursday, as traders reacted to a January report on U.K. retail sales. The report showed a month-over-month drop of 0.3%, missing forecasts for a rise.
The retail sales number was "really weak," showing British consumers are starting to feel the squeeze due to a pickup in inflation (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-inflation-hits-2-year-high-beats-views-2017-01-17), said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK, in a note.
"The net impact on the currency after the data was bad, and we have seen traders putting more short trades against the sterling-dollar pair," he added.
The FTSE 100 lifted off its session low as sterling slumped. A weaker pound often boosts the London benchmark as around 75% of the index's revenues come from overseas in other currencies.
Investors also were digesting U.S. President Donald Trump's lengthy press conference (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-attacks-media-during-lengthy-press-conference-2017-02-16) on Thursday, in which he said he "inherited a mess" at home and abroad, and blasted the news media.
Movers: Coca-Cola HBC AG's shares gained 2.5% for one of the FTSE 100's biggest gains. The stock is building on Thursday's jump of 4.9%, which came after the bottling company said profit rose last year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/coca-cola-hbc-2016-profit-up-lifts-dividend-2017-02-16).
AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN) (AZN.LN) rose 2.3% after the drug company announced positive results from a trial (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/astrazeneca-breast-cancer-drug-trial-positive-2017-02-17) of its breast cancer treatment Lynparza.
Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered PLC (STAN.LN) gave up 3.3% for the FTSE's largest loss.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 17, 2017 07:58 ET (12:58 GMT)
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