By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
U.K. stocks ended lower Monday, with analysts blaming the retreat in part on rising tensions with Russia.
A stronger pound also weighed, as London’s stock benchmark resumed their recent slide that largely has been driven by trade-war concerns.
How markets are moving
The FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.58% gave up 0.5% to end at 6,888.69, its lowest close since December 2016.
Last week, the equity benchmark endured a weekly drop of 3.4%, its biggest such fall since the week ended Feb. 9. It is down 10% so far this year.
The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.3172% changed hands at $1.4234, up from $1.4133 late Friday in New York. A stronger pound can hamper the FTSE 100 its multinational components generate most of their sales in foreign currencies.
What’s driving markets
Fears about a possible trade war have weighed on markets around the world this month, helped by news that U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing for tariffs on Chinese products totaling up to $60 billion. But such concerns appeared to abate on Monday, thanks to reports that Washington and Beijing are talking behind the scenes to avoid a trade war.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen European Union countries, the U.S. and Canada expelled scores of Russian diplomats and other officials in a coordinated response to Moscow‘s role in the nerve gas poisoning of a former spy on British soil.
What strategists are saying
“As one area of geopolitics shows signs of improvement, another is deteriorating rapidly,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, in a note.
“Geopolitical concerns over Russia have quickly moved to the top of the agenda, as the U.S. will expel Russian diplomats in a coordinated action with Europe. Equities are once again on the decline.”
London-listed shares in Ireland-based Smurfit Kappa Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/201317005/delayed UK:SKG -0.08% /zigman2/quotes/208768615/delayed IE:SK3 -0.14% /zigman2/quotes/203625360/delayed SMFKY +0.14% fell 4.1% after the packaging-and-paper company rejected a revised bid from International Paper Co. /zigman2/quotes/200533549/composite IP -3.12% that offered shareholders a total of 37.54 euros ($46.37) a share.
Shares in miner Fresnillo PLC /zigman2/quotes/201300065/delayed UK:FRES +2.58% and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/209265718/delayed UK:RBS +0.04% were notable gainers, rising after scoring upgrades to buy. Fresnillo closed 4.6% higher following an upgrade by Goldman Sachs analysts, while RBS jumped 1.5% after a bullish Deutsche Bank note.
Engineering company GKN PLC’s stock added 0.6% after U.S. car parts company Dana Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205161578/composite DAN +1.76% said Monday that it increased its offer for GKN’s Driveline business by $140 million, bringing it to a total of $1.78 billion plus $1 billion in pension liabilities and 133 million Dana shares issued to GKN shareholders.
GKN has been fighting off a hostile offer from turnaround specialist Melrose Industries PLC /zigman2/quotes/210306391/delayed UK:MRO +1.58% , a component of the mid-cap FTSE 250. Melrose shares were up 0.8% on Monday.
Also from the FTSE 250, JD Sports Fashion PLC closed 4.7% lower after the retailer said plans to buy U.S. peer Finish Line Inc. in a $558 million deal.
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