FTSE 100 tracks Wall Street on open, AstraZeneca shares fall

The FTSE 100 opened down 0.2% at 7,775.02 despite an uptick in Asian markets prompted by China-US trade talks in Washington. Instead London traders took their cue from a slightly lower close on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.2% at 24,713.98 at the end of Thursday’s trading while the S&P 500 closed down 0.1% at 2,720.13. 

The Shanghai Composite Index finished the day up 1.24% supported by positive comments from talks between US trade officials and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping's top economic adviser. Although the issue of China’s metal exports to the US, a major issue for the US that has triggered a trade dispute between the two countries, has not been tackled yet China agreed to end an anti-dumping probe into imports of some US grains. The country also tabled the first proposal for reducing the trade surplus with the US by $200 billion. The trading day in the US will largely focus on the flow of these negotiations which will have implications for a range of companies from steel makers to agricultural producers. 

In London, shares in Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca fell 2.0% after the company said its first quarter pre-tax profit plunged 36% on the year to $374.0 million. The company attributed the massive decline to lower gross margins, higher selling, general and administrative costs, and competition from generic drug makers. However, product sales rose 3.0%. 

With a relatively thin news flow early Friday trading in other shares was dominated by triggers earlier this week. Royal Mail was down 2.09% and Vodafone traded down 1.51%. 

Sainsbury shares showed little reaction to news that the U.K. competition watchdog plans to closely look at the company’s plans to merge with Asda, the British arm of US supermarket chain Walmart. Sainsbury’s shares traded up 0.23%. The watchdog issued a preliminary invitation to comment. 

In the currency market the pound was almost unchanged at $1.3507 and the euro was a touch stronger at $1.1807.

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