LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 In Holding Pattern, With Record High In Sight

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Brexit talks stall in Brussels

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U.K. stocks traded in tight ranges on Wednesday as investors waited for new catalysts to send the markets higher and break into fresh record territory.

FTSE near all-time high: The FTSE 100 index was down 0.1% at 7,534.49, trading just 0.2% below the record close set on May 26.

The London benchmark has recently been boosted by a slide in the pound and by renewed confidence that Prime Minister Theresa May can hold onto her cabinet's support for her Brexit plans.

Brexit in focus: May has said the ball is now in the European Union's court for moving negotiations along. She has also warned that the U.K. government is preparing for the divorce talks to fail and to end with no Brexit deal.

U.K. negotiators are in Brussels this week for a fifth round of divorce talks, but the discussions were put on hold on Wednesday. EU leaders are holding a summit on Oct. 19-20 to decide whether there has been enough progress in Brexit talks to move onto the next phase in the divorce proceedings, including the all-important trade deals.

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European Council President Donald Tusk has already said there hasn't been "sufficient progress" to move discussions along.

Sterling slide: The pound fell to $1.3193, down from $1.3204 on Tuesday.

"The political uncertainties remain a major downside risk for pound traders," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group. "PM Theresa May talked down the possibility of another Brexit referendum, although her deputy Damian Green voiced his preference to remain part of the union."

"Tensions are high among the Tories, especially in the aftermath of a difficult start to the negotiations with the EU," she said in a note.

Stock movers: Shares of Mondi PLC (MND.JO) tumbled 8.6% after the packaging and paper group said underlying performance for the year is expected to be modestly below market expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mondi-profit-rises-8-on-higher-prices-2017-10-11).

Smith & Nephew PLC (SN.LN) jumped 4.1% after reports that hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. has built a stake in the British medical equipment company.

On the FTSE 250 index , Dunelm Group PLC (DNLM.LN) climbed 5.3% after the homeware retailer said first-quarter revenue jumped 25%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 11, 2017 05:39 ET (09:39 GMT)