FTSE slips into the red after Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold

Shares in London’s FTSE 100 weathered the Bank of England’s decision to hold interest rates steady on Thursday, trading up through most of the day, although dipping into negative territory just before close.

The index fell 8.41 points, or 0.11%, to end the day at 7,622.16, despite hitting highs of 7,673.67 earlier in the day.

The fall was led by some of the FTSE’s retailers, including Ocado, Marks & Spencer and Primark owner AB Foods.

“The FTSE100 has performed slightly better than its European peers largely due to a solid day for Shell whose shares rose to three-week highs after announcing better than expected fourth quarter profits,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

At the end of the day in Europe, Frankfurt’s Dax index fell 0.26%, while the Cac 40 in Paris had closed down 1.04%.

Mr Hewson added: “Today saw EU inflation slow by less than expected in January, while the Bank of England was split when it came to the monetary policy decision.

“What we can glean from today’s press conference with Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey is that while the ‘tightening bias’ has gone, and that a rate cut is coming, the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) isn’t too keen to signal one yet given the elevated levels of services inflation, and that we might have to wait until June.”

In New York, a little while after markets had closed in Europe the S&P 500 had gained 0.53%, while the Dow Jones was 0.27% higher.

On currency markets the pound had gained 0.25% against the dollar at 1.272 and had dropped 0.13% against the euro at 1.1712.

In company news, shares in the owner of Mecca Bingo were given a boost after revealing it had returned to a profit, thanks to more punters visiting its venues.

Rank Group recorded a profit of about £10 million for the second half of 2023, bouncing back from a loss of more than £100 million the same time a year before.

The company said it been a challenging few years but it was starting to see an improved financial performance. Its share price was up 7.2% at close.

Elsewhere, energy giant Shell told investors that its annual profit fell last year, after a record 2022 which saw oil and gas prices soar in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the FTSE 100-listed company said quarterly earnings had improved on an underlying basis, to more than expected, and announced plans to deliver more returns to shareholders.

Its share price was up 2.4% at close.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Croda, up 162p to 4,967p, Diploma, up 80p to 3,340p, Shell, up 59p to 2,506p, Beazley, up 9p to 553.5p, and Diageo, up 44.5p to 2,905p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Ocado, down 30.4p to 516.2p, 3i Group, down 128p to 2,351p, BT, down 3.2p to 109p, AB Foods, down 60p to 2,281p, and Land Securities, down 15.6p to 654p.

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