LONDON MARKETS: U.K. Stocks Wobble As British Voters Head To The Polls

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Pound trading at two-week high

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U.K. stocks tilted lower Thursday, with the country's general election looming large, as investors wait to find out whether the Conservative Party will increase its majority in parliament.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.1% to 7,468.63, but had been up by 0.1% when trading started. The basic material and financial sectors were higher, but industrial shares were in the red.

Meanwhile, the more domestically focused and mid-cap FTSE 250 index was down 0.1% at 19,673.69.

Read:U.K. election -- these are the stocks and sectors to watch once the result is in (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/watch-for-a-shake-up-among-uk-stocks-after-thursdays-election-2017-06-06)

Election day: Polls in the U.K. opened at 7 a.m. London time, or 2 a.m. Eastern Time, in a general election called out of cycle (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/whats-a-snap-election-and-why-does-uk-prime-minister-theresa-may-want-one-2017-04-18) by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in a bid to gain more seats for her Conservative Party, and so strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-adds-another-layer-of-complexity-analysts-react-to-surprise-snap-election-call-2017-04-18).

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The final round of opinion polls has provided little clarity about the outcome of the election, with the Conservative lead ranging from double-digits to "virtually nonexistent," said Ian Williams, economist and strategist at Peel Hunt.

"The level of turnout, especially among younger voters in marginal constituencies, may well prove decisive," Williams said in a note.

With 650 seats at stake, a majority is at least 326 seats. The Conservatives currently have 330 seats and, with support, a working parliamentary majority of 17.

"The spread quotes have settled down in recent days, at levels implying a majority of around 80 seats, which feels consistent with where sterling is now trading," Williams said. "Such a result should prompt an initial, probably modest, relative rebound in the more UK-exposed mid & small cap groups."

The pound was trading around a two-week high Thursday, buying $1.2966, up from $1.2912 late Wednesday in New York. A stronger pound can clip into shares of multinational companies listed on the FTSE 100.

Analysts at ING have said a majority of at least 50 seats for the Conservatives would be needed for sterling to take any meaningful steps higher. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-the-worst-that-could-happen-to-the-pound-in-the-uk-election-and-its-not-jeremy-corbyn-2017-06-07)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-the-worst-that-could-happen-to-the-pound-in-the-uk-election-and-its-not-jeremy-corbyn-2017-06-07)Read:When do we know who won the U.K. election? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-is-the-uk-election-and-when-do-we-know-who-won-2017-06-01)

Mining cheer: Shares of miners were higher after the release of data showing Chinese exports in May rose a more-than-expected 8.7% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinas-exports-rise-for-third-straight-month-2017-06-08) from a year earlier, suggesting resilient global demand for goods from the world's second-largest economy. China is a major buyer of industrial and precious metals.

In the group, iron ore producer Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) (RIO) added 0.9% to sit atop the FTSE 100. Glencore PLC (GLEN.LN) gained 0.7%, and BHP Billiton PLC (BLT.LN) (BHP.AU) was up 0.5%.

Read:BHP Billiton's board is in hedge fund's crosshairs (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bhp-billitons-board-is-in-hedge-funds-crosshairs-2017-06-07)

Other movers: Elsewhere on the FTSE 100, shares of Kingfisher PLC (KGF.LN) fell 1.7%, after Investec recommended selling shares in the DIY retailer.

A few shares were trading without dividend rights Thursday. Advertising firm WPP PLC (WPP.LN) was up 1.1%. Associated British Foods PLC (ABF.LN) picked up 0.4%, as did Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN) (VOD.LN) . Chemicals company Johnson Matthey PLC (JMAT.LN) edged up 0.2%.

Also on the radar Thursday will be the European Central Bank's policy decision. Policy makers led by President Mario Draghi may reduce the ECB's inflation forecasts.

See:Why ECB can take only 'baby steps' toward ending ultraloose monetary policy (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/draghis-ecb-may-take-baby-steps-toward-ending-ultraloose-monetary-policy-2017-06-06)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 08, 2017 04:16 ET (08:16 GMT)