September 8, 2017 / 9:36 AM / 3 months ago

Britain's FTSE falls as consumer stocks falter, Greene King drowns sorrows

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* FTSE 100 down 0.3 pct, mid caps down 0.7 pct

* Top share index set for weekly decline

* Greene King plunges after cuts sales

* But Burberry pops higher on Credit Suisse upgrade

* Financials rise after ECB meeting

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A fall in mining stocks put pressure on Britain’s top share index on Friday, while British consumer-facing stocks came into sharp focus after pub operator Greene King’s shares plunged following a bleak trading update.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.3 percent at 7,372.10 points by 0901 GMT, while mid caps declined 0.7 percent.

A decline in the copper price weighed on the FTSE’s miners, with Antofagasta, BHP Billiton and Anglo American all down between 1.3 percent to 1.8 percent.

Shares in mid cap brewer Greene King slumped more than 12 percent to a five-year low after it reported a fall in sales at its pubs, warning of tougher times ahead.

The rise in inflation following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last June has squeezed consumer spending, which has also been hit by muted wage growth. This in turn has made it a difficult environment for firms in the pub, restaurant and retail industries.

Shares in peers Marston‘s, Mitchells & Butlers and J D Wetherspoon all fell between 2.9 percent to 6.5 percent.

Among blue chips, Costa Coffee operator Whitbread declined 1.9 percent.

Broker Investec also cut its rating on Greene King to “hold” from “buy”, adding further pressure on the shares.

“We believe EPS momentum remains limited given the weak LFL (like-for-like) backdrop and high cost pressure environment, though the yield should provide some support to the share price,” analysts at Investec said in a note.

The FTSE 100 was set to end a week dominated by a European Central Bank meeting with a loss of 0.8 percent. Banks, however, were among top gainers on Friday after the central bank indicated it was preparing to scale back its stimulus programme.

“In recent years it’s been a problem for banks that interest rates have been as low as they are because that reduces their ability to earn a reasonable net interest margin,” Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.

“Lots of people have been waiting for it for a long time. Realistically how much monetary tightening are we going to see from the ECB? Probably not a great deal. It’s the start of a process, rather than the end of one,” Hyett added.

Burberry was the biggest FTSE gainers, rising 1.3 percent on the back of a positive note from Credit Suisse, whose analysts raised the luxury goods group to “outperform”, highlighting it as one of their top turnaround picks.

“Burberry has undergone the biggest management reshuffle since its 2002 IPO,” analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.

“Margins are close to historical lows and the cost cutting plan in place should alleviate concerns about further earnings downgrades. With sell-side positioning the most negative it has been since 2009, we think this creates a buying opportunity,” Credit Suisse analysts added.

Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Alison Williams

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