By Emily Horton
London’s main equity benchmark slipped into the red on Friday, as the pound climbed on a report that the British government was more likely to delay a key Brexit vote for fear that it would fail.
What did markets do?
Giving up earlier gains, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.47% fell 0.3% to 6,923.93, after finishing up 0.5% on Thursday. The index is looking at a 1.3% gain for the week.
That loss came as the pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD -0.5000% charged up to $1.2802 from $1.2749 late in New York Thursday.
What is driving the markets?
The pound spiked on a report in the Evening Standard that said Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet members saw the likelihood of a Brexit delay rising. The U.K. Parliament is slated to vote on her Brexit deal on Jan. 15, but market participants aren’t sure she can shore up enough votes.
A stronger pound can weigh on the FTSE 100, as the index’s multinational companies generate most of their sales in other currencies.
An influential lobby group for U.K. businesses will on Friday warn that a crash-out Brexit, without a trade pact in place, would shrink the country’s economy by 8% and put thousands of jobs at risk . On Thursday, the ratings agency S&P Global Ratings said it could reassess its guidance on U.K. banks if the country is forced into a disorderly exit from the EU.
Investors also got data that showed Britain’s economy slowed in the three months leading to November, official data from the Office of National statistics showed on Friday. Expansion was at its slowest pace in six months as factories suffered from difficult trade conditions ahead of Brexit, Reuters reported .
London was also lower as Wall Street was pointing to a weaker session and most of European markets were in the red.
What stocks are active?
Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/203646520/delayed UK:RR +0.29% gained 1.4%.
Downside pressure came from oil companies, with Royal Dutch Shell PLC A off 0.5% and BP PLC /zigman2/quotes/207305210/composite BP +0.80% down 0.6%. Those losses came as oil prices gave up an earlier lead and turned negative.
Software company Sage Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/204528931/delayed UK:SGE -0.81% dropped nearly 2%.