Friday, Jan 19

U.K. stocks dropped for a fourth straight session on Thursday, with pressure on London’s blue-chips benchmark coming from continued strength in the pound and a decline in shares of Primark chain operator Associated British Foods following a trading update. The FTSE 100 index UKX, -0.32% ended down 0.3% at 7,700.96, moving further away from its an all-time closing high of 7,778.64 hit last week. The pound traded at $1.3893, up from $1.3830 late Wednesday in New York. The FTSE 100 lagged behind other European equity benchmarks in Thursday’s session in part as the pound continued to scale at levels against the U.S. dollar not seen since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Sterling rose for a fifth day in six sessions and has picked up roughly 1.2% this week. Sterling strength can hurt shares of multinational companies on the FTSE 100 as a stronger pound can dent earnings made overseas. About 75% of revenue generated by FTSE 100 companies comes from international markets. Associated British Foods PLC shares fell 3.6% as the company posted a drop in revenue from its sugar business during the 16-week period to Jan. 6. 
The company said, however, that fall was countered by a sales increase at its Primark fashion arm. AB Foods left its full-year outlook unchanged. Whitbread PLC pushed up 3.5% as the company, which runs the Costa Coffee and Premier Inn brands, said it’s on track to meet its full-year expectations. Off the FTSE 100, shares of Countrywide PLC fell 19% after the real-estate agent forecast a 9% drop in 2017 profit. Online real estate listings firm Rightmove PLC tracked Countrywide lower, falling 3.7%. U.K. house prices bounced back in December, with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors saying its monthly reading came in at a plus 8. Analysts polled by The Wall Street Journal expected, on average, the index to slip further, to minus 2.