The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 lost opening gains to to post modest losses in early trade on Monday as the pound dipped on fears that Britain's transition period out of the European Union would expire without the two sides agreeing on a free trade deal.
At 9am, the benchmark FTSE 100 was down around 0.3% at 6,528.04, possibly ending a five-day run of gains as Britain also prepared to roll out Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine this week.
The mid-cap FTSE 250, considered a barometer of Brexit sentiment, dipped 0.1%, led by the industrials and consumer discretionary sectors.
Britain and the European Union will make a last-ditch attempt to strike a post-Brexit trade deal this week, striving to solve key sticking points in fishing, governance rules and dispute resolution.
European shares are a touch weaker while broader Asian markets are flat despite Chinese November trade numbers showing the third monthly rise in imports and a 21% jump in exports, the biggest in almost three years.
The dollar is taking a break after several weeks of gradually weakening but much depends on the ECB’s Thursday meeting where it might signal its feelings about the euro's run to 2-1/2-year highs.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
B&Q-owner Kingfisher (KGF), which has benefited from a jump in do-it-yourself projects during coronavirus lockdowns, on Monday joined a growing list of retailers as it announced it would return Covid-19 business rates relief aid given by the UK and Ireland governments.
Kingfisher stock was flat on Thursday at 268.8p.
The move follows similar announcements from big players Tesco (TSCO), Sainsbury's (SBRY) and Morrisons (MRW) to smaller ones, including Pets at Home (PETS), as retailers who are benefitting from the stockpiling and other lockdown-driven sales have come under scrutiny for taking government funds while paying out dividends.
Mike Ashley’s Frasers (FRAS) said it is in negotiations to buy collapsed department store chain Debenhams from administrators in a rescue deal, which would further extend the retail billionaire's reach in the British high street.
Former Sports Direct business said that it hoped a deal could be agreed and jobs at Debenhams saved after the Covid-19 pandemic sunk its business, but cautioned that the transaction was complicated and talks needed to take place quickly.
Fraser’s share price nudged up 0.3% to 435.2p.
US Telecoms technology giant Cisco has agreed to buy London-based cloud communications software company IMImobile (IMO:AIM) for 595p per share in cash in a deal valued at about $730 million, including debt.
IMImobile provides software and services to businesses to connect with customers through interactive channels including social, messaging and voice.
The deal saw IMImobile’s stock soar 47% to 592p.
Fashion retailer Ted Baker (LON:TED) slipped 1.5% as its half-year losses ballooned due to coronavirus-led lockdowns denting retail sales.
Shares in Ted Baler slipped 2% to 131.25p.