LONDON MARKETS: U.K. Stocks Swept Lower As Insurers Come Under Pressure, Pound Climbs

By Carla Mozee and Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Berkeley sounds downbeat note on London property market

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U.K.'s blue-chip benchmark underperformed its European peers on Wednesday, moving lower as a rising pound hurt the index's exporters and insurers slumped as Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.3% to 7,354.13, logging a third straight session of losses. The index on Tuesday fell 0.5% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-gains-traction-as-mining-shares-advance-2017-09-05), hurt by fears over North Korea's nuclear program and a jump in the pound.

Sterling continued higher on Wednesday, rising to a three-week high of $1.3069, compared with $1.3033 late Tuesday in New York, and $1.2932 late Monday.

The rising U.K. currency weighed on the index's internationally exposed names, with shares of Burberry Group PLC (BRBY.LN) (BRBY.LN) down 1.4%, BAE Systems PLC (BA.LN) (BA.LN) off 2.7% and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (RR.LN)(RR.LN) lower by 0.9%.

The pound dropped against the dollar, as the greenback pulled back (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-edges-up-against-loonie-as-traders-await-for-bank-of-canada-rate-statement-2017-09-06) on speculation Hurricane Irma will strengthen the case for the U.S. Federal Reserve to leave interest rates on hold for the rest of the year.

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U.S. stocks were mostly higher Wednesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stock-futures-kept-in-check-by-worries-over-north-korea-hurricane-irma-2017-09-06), while European stocks ended slightly in positive territory.

Irma hits insurers: Wednesday's session got under way with Hurricane Irma, described as a potentially catastrophic Category 5 storm (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/potentially-catastrophic-hurricane-irma-makes-landfall-in-the-caribbean-2017-09-06) in the Atlantic Ocean, hitting islands in the Caribbean and heading toward the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida.

In London, shares of insurer Prudential PLC (PRU.LN) dropped 0.8%. Irma follows Hurricane Harvey, which recently flooded Houston and caused oil refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast to be shut down.

On the FTSE 250, shares of insurer Beazley PLC (BEZ.LN) slumped 5.7%, Hiscox Ltd. (HSX.LN) lost 1.8%, and Lancashire Holdings Ltd. (LRE.LN) erased 2.9%. The mid-cap index finished lower by 0.4%.

Home builders: Back on the FTSE 100, Berkeley Group (BKG.LN) fell 2.5% as the home builder said the London market continued to be adversely impacted by Brexit uncertainty (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/berkeley-london-market-hurt-by-brexit-uncertainty-2017-09-06) and changes to stamp-duty land tax.

Barratt (BDEV.LN) lost 4.8% even the home builder said it would return 175 million pounds ($226 million) to shareholders (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/barratt-sets-special-dividend-after-profit-rise-2017-09-06) in the form of a special dividend as a result of strong fiscal 2017 earnings.

Stock movers: In the banking group, Standard Chartered PLC (STAN.LN) ended down by 0.8% and Royal Bank of Scotland PLC (RBS.LN) (RBS.LN) gave up 1.5%. The decline for banks started Tuesday after Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said the central bank may need to slow down interest-rate hikes (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-may-have-to-slow-interest-rate-hikes-given-subdued-inflation-brainard-2017-09-05).

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 06, 2017 12:31 ET (16:31 GMT)