LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 Gives Up Ground; Unilever Falls After Hurricanes Hurt Sales

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.K. retail sales decline in September on a monthly basis

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U.K. stocks lost ground Thursday, staying in the red after a report on British retail sales fell short of expectations, while shares of consumer products heavyweight Unilever PLC slumped after its earnings report.

The FTSE 100 index lost 0.4% to 7,512.69, led by a drop in consumer goods and services shares, as well as in basic materials stocks. The index dipped to an intraday low alongside a fall in U.S. stock futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stock-futures-tumble-with-ebay-apple-other-tech-stocks-taking-a-hit-in-premarket-2017-10-19) and after Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped nearly 2%.

The London benchmark on Wednesday rose 0.4% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-rises-as-eyes-turn-to-wages-data-2017-10-18) to 7,542.87, just shy of its record close of 7,556.24 logged last week.

Hurricanes blamed: Unilever (ULVR.LN) was among Thursday's decliners. Shares fell 4.1% after the company behind brands including Ben & Jerry's and Dove reported weaker revenue growth of 2.6% in the third quarter. Analysts had been looking for growth of 3.9%.

Sales growth was hurt by poor weather in Europe and natural disasters in the Americas, the consumer products company said.

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"There's really no growth in the U.S. business," Unilever Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said in an interview (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/unilever-sales-disappoint-on-us-hurricane-impact-2017-10-19). "But the big one-off impact that caused us to miss against consensus this quarter were the hurricanes in Florida and Texas."

U.K. shoppers: Retail sales came in weaker than anticipated. Sales fell 0.8% in September from the previous month, and rose by 1.2%, missing a forecast of 2.3% growth in a FactSet poll of economists.

The pound fell to $1.3152 after the report, down from $1.3205 late Wednesday in New York. This week was packed with economic data, with reports showing real wages fell for the sixth time in a row in August and that consumer price inflation hit 3%, a percentage point above the Bank of England's target.

The data will be considered by Bank of England policy makers, who are slated to say on Nov. 2 if they've raised or left intact the benchmark interest rate that stands at a record low 0.25%.

Stock movers: London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LSE.LN) shares fell 0.6% after the company said Chief Executive Xavier Rolet plans to step down by the end of December 2018. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lse-revenue-up-18-ceo-xavier-rolet-to-leave-2017-10-19)

Travis Perkins PLC shares (TPK.LN) picked up 1.9%. The building materials supplier said third-quarter comparable sales rose (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/travis-perkins-sales-up-business-on-track-2017-10-19) and that it expects to meet its full-year expectations.

Off the main benchmark, IWG PLC (IWG.LN) plunged 33% after the workspace provider said an anticipated improvement in third-quarter sales has been weaker than expected.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 19, 2017 06:55 ET (10:55 GMT)