LONDON MARKETS: Oil Majors Power FTSE 100 Higher As Iran Tensions Stir Energy Markets

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Debenhams shares tank after profit warning

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U.K. stocks rose for a second straight session on Thursday, with energy companies among the biggest gainers as oil prices continued their rally to trade around a three-year high.

What is the market doing: The FTSE 100 index added 0.2% to 7,685.34, setting it on track for its highest close since Friday, Dec. 29, when it scored an all-time high.

The pound bought $1.3526, compared with $1.3516 late Wednesday in New York.

What is driving the market: Oil companies helped drive the upbeat trading mood in London as crude prices extended their rally from Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate oil climbed 0.5% to $61.91, trading around its highest level since December 2014. Brent added 0.1% to $67.93, also a three-year high.

The oil gains came as antigovernment protests continued in Iran. There are fears that the riots, which have left more than 20 people dead, may lead to disruption to crude output from OPEC's third-largest producer, which would limit global oil supply and support prices.

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At 9:30 a.m. London time, or 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time, attention shifts to the U.K. services purchasing managers' index. Both the manufacturing and construction PMIs, out on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, missed expectations and showed a slowdown in activity.

What are strategists saying: "There are further gains for oil shares, which continue to ride the coattails of a further increase in crude prices," said Lee Wild, head of equity strategy at Interactive Investor, in a note.

"There have been major outages over the past few months in the North Sea and Libya, and now markets are pricing in an outside chance that domestic tension in Iran could threaten supply. Oilfield strikes look unlikely just now, but Donald Trump could use any brutal crackdown by the regime there to reintroduce sanctions. Do that and Royal Dutch Shell and BP, already at multiyear highs, will go better still," he added.

Stock movers: Among oil majors, shares of BP PLC (BP.LN) (BP.LN) added 1%, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) put on 0.4%. On the FTSE 250 index , Tullow Oil (TLW.LN) climbed 2.6%.

Whitbread PLC (WTB.LN) rose 0.9% after the hospitality group and owner of the Costa Coffee and Premier Inn brands said Adam Crozier will take over as chairman (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/whitbread-appoints-adam-crozier-as-chairman-2018-01-04) after Richard Baker retires from the company's board on Feb. 28.

Outside the major London indexes, shares of Debenhams PLC (DEB.LN) plunged 20% after the department store chain warned on profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/debenhams-warns-on-profit-after-disappointing-christmas-sales-2018-01-04) after disappointing sales.

"The first week of post-Christmas sale was below expectations despite further markdown investment, particularly in the highly seasonal gift category," Debenhams said in a statement.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 04, 2018 03:57 ET (08:57 GMT)