UK stocks open 0.1% lower

UK stocks opened a touch lower on Wednesday after strength in the pound hurt multinationals, offsetting a strong performance from retailers inspired by a profit upgrade from Next.

At 0856, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 6.57 points, or 0.1%, at 7,641.53.

Next jumped 9.2% after the clothing retailer said cold weather helped it boost sales during the crucial Christmas trading period. It also announced a possible £300m share buyback.

The strong Christmas trading performance helped push other retailers higher, with Marks & Spencer adding 3.2% and Debenhams adding 3.3%.

Companies with large offshore operations were affected by the stronger pound, with Imperial Brands and HSBC falling 1.2% and 0.9%, respectively.

Ryanair gained 1.5% after it boosted passenger volumes by 3% and load factors by 1% during the month of December.

Wizz Air Holdings, meanwhile, said passenger volumes jumped 19.8% in December as the Budapest-based carrier continued to add new routes in Eastern Europe. Its shares gained 0.7%.

Plus500 rallied 15% after the spread-betting trading house forecast revenue and profits for the full year ahead of market expectations.

Facilities management group Carillion, however, fell 3.4% after revealing that it was under investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority over some of its market announcements.

A warning by Staffline that it expected to miss its £1bln annual revenue target sent the recruitment group's shares down 1.5%, though it added that its full-year results would be in line with market expectations.

Babcock International fell 1.1% despite announcing that its joint venture with UGL had won a further five-year agreement to provide maintenance support services for the Australian Navy.