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Pound hit, FTSE rises on rates caution

London Stock ExchangeSterling fell more than 1% following Thursday’s interest rate rise while the main FTSE 100 stock index jumped.

 The Bank of England said it expected only “very gradual” in rates increases over the next three years, giving markets a hint that there would be no change for some months.

The pound initially spiked higher on the announcement of the hike, climbing to as much as $1.3279 from $1.3215.

But it fell almost two US cents soon after the statement, as investors focused on the fact that it did not appear that this hike marked the start of a steady tightening cycle. Sterling fell as low as $1.3085.

The FTSE 100 was up about 50 points at 7,538.

BT has maintained its dividend despite reporting a 1% fall in second quarter pre-tax profit and revenue for the three months to 30 September. Reported pre-tax profits came in at £666m and revenue at £5.9bn.

However, on an adjusted basis pre-tax profits were down 10% at 789m.

A 4% fall in underlying operating profits reflected investment in sports rights and customer experience, along with higher pension costs, business rates and decline in Global Services partly offset by cost savings.

TV customer numbers grew by just 7,000 during the quarter, despite the high burden of sports rights spending, down sharply from the 11,000 TV customers during the fourth quarter of the last financial year.

BT’s pension remains a source of concern for investors and the company said the review of pension benefits was continuing.

Chief executive, Gavin Patterson said the results for the first six months of the year were “in line with our expectations as encouraging results in our consumer facing lines of business, notably EE, helped offset ongoing challenges in our enterprise divisions, in particular Global Services”.

As a result, he said, the company was maintaining its outlook for the year as a whole.

Shares in BT were up 0.21% at 261 at 8.30am.

Morrisons said like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 29 October – excluding fuel – were up 2.5%, the previous quarter’s growth of 2.6%.

The supermarket chain also said it was working to mitigate the impact of lower sterling on imported food prices.

David Potts, chief executive, said: “We are pleased with a further step up in our competitiveness and another period of positive like for like sales growth.”

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has beaten analysts’ expectations for third-quarter earnings with a 50% rise in underlying net profit.

Net income attributable to shareholders, based on a current cost of supplies (CCS) and excluding exceptional items, came to $4.1bn.

That compares with a company-provided analysts’ consensus of $3.62bn. It was also strongly up on net income of $2.72bn from a year earlier.


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