LONDON MARKETS: Marks And Spencer Shares Swing Lower, Keeping FTSE 100 In Check

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Miners rise despite a slowdown in growth of Chinese imports, exports

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U.K. stocks stepped lower Wednesday, after snapping a win streak in the prior session, as mining shares gained despite a downbeat reading on Chinese trade.

Investors once again were wading through a stream of corporate financial updates and earnings reports. Shares in Marks and Spencer Group PLC slid after the major retail chain said it was facing "headwinds" in its food business.

What markets are doing: The FTSE 100 index down less than 2 points at 7,510.76, led by financial, industrial and consumer services shares. But the consumer-goods and utility sectors were in the red. On Tuesday, the index dropped 0.7% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fall-for-retailers-keeps-ftse-100-in-check-2017-11-07), the biggest decline in about two weeks, according to FactSet data.

The pound fetched $1.3135, down from $1.3171 on Tuesday.

What's moving markets: Retail stocks were under pressure, led by Marks and Spencer. They fell in the prior session after a disappointing reading on retail sales and Barclays figures showed a slowdown in consumer spending.

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Read:Weak British retail sales flash 'warning sign' for crucial shopping season (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/weak-british-retail-sales-flash-warning-sign-for-crucial-shopping-season-2017-11-07)

Meanwhile, mining shares gained even after Chinese trade data showed exports and imports grew slower than expected (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/china-trade-surplus-widens-in-october-2017-11-08) in October. China's manufacturing industry is a key buyer of industrial and precious metals.

"China is making a concerted effort to move towards a more service-focused economy. That being said, their demand for minerals is still a major driver of commodity prices and mining companies," said David Madden, CMC Markets analyst, in a note.

M&S pulls on retailers: Marks and Spencer shares (MKS.LN) dropped 2.6% after moving higher at the market open. The retail chain reported a fall in adjusted profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/marks-spencer-profit-falls-on-clothing-sales-2017-11-08) that topped forecasts. But the company said it was pulling back on its plans for new Simply Food stores (http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/documents/reports-results-and-publications/press-releases/201718/half-year-results-for-26-weeks-to-30-september-2017.pdf).

"The headwinds facing our food business have intensified as competitors have encroached on some of our space with the rapid growth of convenience," said M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe in a statement.

While M&S has been working to sort out poor performance in its clothing and home departments, until now, the food business has been seen as steady.

"Food-store expansion is being scaled back a touch now, which may disappoint investors since food has been the bright spot for a while," Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said in a note.

Among other retailers, Next PLC (NXT.LN) shares slipped 0.2%, while Kingfisher PLC (KGF.LN) shares shed 0.2%, extending their declines from Tuesday. Shares in Associated British Foods PLC (ABF.LN) , which runs fast-fashion company Primark, were down 2.6%.

Stock movers: In the mining group, Fresnillo PLC (FRES.LN) rose 0.6%, Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) (RIO) (RIO) gained 0.4%, and Randgold Resources PLC (RRS.LN) was up 0.4%. But Antofagasta PLC (ANTO.LN) was down 0.3%.

Persimmon PLC (PSN.LN) fell 3%. The home builder said total sales per site since reporting its half-year results were in line with the year-ago period. Forward sales beyond 2017 were up 10% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/persimmon-forward-sales-up-10-2017-11-08), the company said.

Shares in SSE PLC (SSE.LN) were up 0.7% after the company said it has made an agreement (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sse-innogy-agree-to-merge-two-uk-retail-units-2017-11-08) with Innogy (IGY.XE) to merge two of their U.K. retail energy units, as it reported a fall in first-half profit for fiscal 2018.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 08, 2017 05:13 ET (10:13 GMT)