London stocks get Unilever fizz as Trump rally goes flat

World stock markets eased back Friday as a Trump-fuelled surge fizzled out, but London gained in an end-of-week flurry of excitement prompted by a Kraft Heinz bid for Unilever.

"After a five-day running streak markets are looking a bit tired," said Jasper Lawler at London Capital Group, adding that losses were light so far and "no justification for alarm".

Wall Street fell, as did Paris, while Frankfurt ended the day unchanged with strong Allianz results helping the Dax index off its earlier lows.

But London posted closing gains as Unilever shares surged, topping the day's winners, after the Kraft bid which the Dutch company rejected.

Dutch-British giant Unilever, whose main listing is in London, saw its stock rise by 13.6 percent by the close.

Kraft Heinz said it had made an offer to Unilever to merge both companies, creating a leading consumer goods company. But Unilever turned down the bid, saying the $143 billion offer "fundamentally undervalues" the company, and that it saw no basis for further talks.

- Kraft may be back -

Kraft, however, promised to continue trying.

Mike van Dulken at Accendo Markets said Unilever's initial thumbs-down was par for the course in takeover negotiations.

"If someone is that interested, they?ll be back with a better offer. Which Kraft may well do," he said.

He said a 30 percent premium over the targets' last share price has been the average in takeovers in recent years, which compares with the 18 percent that Kraft has brought to the table.

The Unilever stock surge helped London recoup early losses, as did renewed sterling weakness after news of a fresh drop in British retail sales.

A weaker pound boosts the earnings outlook for British exporters which are heavily represented in the FTSE 100 benchmark index.

But elsewhere investors kept taking profits, capping a rally fuelled by US President Donald Trump's announcement of a "phenomenal" tax plan, as uncertainty crept in over his ability to deliver.

Remarks by Trump during a Thursday news conference clearly had investors rattled.

"The week will be finishing with investors weighing up the likelihood of another Trump Twitter rampage or press conference," said Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

- Honeymoon over? -

"Whilst these create great headlines for the media it does little to improve stability in the markets, and many will be wondering whether the honeymoon period is over already."

There remained a lot of uncertainty, particularly with Trump's first weeks in office engulfed in controversies, most recently over his relationship with Russia, dealers said.

"The current political landscape is unlikely to change soon, nor will the debates surrounding tax, fiscal and Fed policies," said Oanda analyst Stephen Innes.

"As such we should expect the markets to come under renewed pressure and to be severely tested in the weeks to come."

The dollar recovered, underpinned by Fed chief Janet Yellen's comments this week to Congress that the economy continued to improve, leaving open the chance of a March rate hike.

Elsewhere in forex markets, the ruble gave up some of its spectacular recent gains after Russia's Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said that authorities expected the ruble to begin weakening soon, but would react if the currency continues to strengthen.

But at current levels the greenback is still 10 percent lower against the ruble than it was three months ago, and 23 percent lower than a year ago.

- Key figures around 1640 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,299.96 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: FLAT at 11,757.02 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.7 percent at 4,867.58 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,308.81 (close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 20,552.19

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 19,234.62 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,033.74 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 3,201.97 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0621 from $1.0675

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2422 from $1.2489

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.78 yen from 113.27 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 20 cents at $55.45 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 31 cents at $53.44

Market Data

  • Currencies
    Currencies
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    0.7673+0.001+0.13%
    AUDUSD=X
    0.6154-0.0027-0.44%
    AUDGBP=X
    0.7227-0.0002-0.03%
    AUDEUR=X