U.K. stocks finished slightly higher on Monday, with the London benchmark’s gain capped by drops for London Stock Exchange Group PLC and Direct Line Insurance Group PLC.
The index got a lift from a falling pound following a Sunday Times report that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing for Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to call for a second independence referendum in the wake of the U.K.’s Brexit vote.
But among the FTSE 100’s worst performing shares Monday were those of the London Stock Exchange , as they declined 1.1% on growing worries that its plans for a merger will collapse. The LSE said late Sunday it wouldn’t sell its majority-owned fixed-income trading platform in Italy to offset antitrust concerns its plan to merge with Deutsche Börse AG /zigman2/quotes/205502669/delayed DE:DB1 -0.34% .
Direct Line Insurance Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/201952264/delayed UK:DLG -1.90% tumbled 7.2% after the auto insurer said a change in a rate used by U.K. courts to calculate personal injury damages would cut its pretax profit.
Steered by sterling: The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD -0.4103% fell as low as $1.2384 on Monday compared with $1.2460 late Friday in New York.
A weaker pound can help boost profit and revenue made overseas by multinational companies listed on the FTSE 100.
Scotland in 2014 voted to remain a part of the U.K., but a second referendum would still represent a “real and substantial risk,” to the pound, said Ranko Berich, head of market analysis at Monex Europe.
But sterling did come off intraday lows, recently buying $1.2460, or about flat from late Friday. Berich noted investors are looking ahead to U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech on Tuesday before Congress, hoping for more details about his plans for fiscal policy in the world’s largest economy.
Other movers: Similar to Direct Line’s disclosure, Admiral Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/201079056/delayed UK:ADM -3.40% said the calculation change would reduce its 2016 profit. Admiral’s shares fell 2.5%.
Associated British Foods PLC’s shares /zigman2/quotes/204493701/delayed UK:ABF -1.09% closed down 0.9% after getting yanked between gains and losses during the session. The food, ingredients and retail group projected that sales at its Primark chain for the first half would be 21% ahead of last year at actual exchange rates.
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