FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: Chatter over rate rise knocks shares

Demand for shares weakened on the back of a speech by Mark Carney that many took to signal that an interest rate hike could come before the end of this year.

The Bank of England. Picture: Getty

The FTSE 100 Index, which was boosted on Thursday after a breakthrough in the Greek debt crisis, ended the week on a downbeat mood, easing 21.37 points to close at 6,775.08.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “Low interest rates had been suppressing yield in other asset classes, so a rate rise will naturally dent some of the appeal of the stock market. Traders had been betting that a rate rise in the UK wouldn’t occur until at least the latter part of the first-quarter 2016, so this was a genuine surprise.”

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Among the top-flight stocks, Royal Mail was the heaviest faller after industry regulator Ofcom said it may impose a price cap amid a “fundamental review” into the former state-owned monopoly. The group’s shares finished the session down 18.5p or 3.5 per cent at 508.5p.

High street stalwart Marks & Spencer was also in negative territory, falling 6.5p to 539.5p after John Dixon, the executive director of its general merchandise division, said he was leaving to become chief executive at another company. Analysts at Jefferies said: “This is a blow to M&S but with [food boss] Steve Rowe stepping into Dixon’s shoes, we believe the M&S recovery can continue relatively unscathed.”

There were brighter signs in the travel sector, with budget airline EasyJet top of the blue-chip risers’ board, climbing 30p to 1,698p after positive broker commentary. British Airways owner International Airlines Group added 9p to 567p, while tour operator Tui gained 16p to 1,102p.

Gaming firm 888 was another winner, soaring 13.75p or 8.6 per cent to 173.75p after appearing to win the takeover battle to buy Foxy-Bingo owner for £898.3 million.