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Europe: Consumer stocks a headache as Britain's FTSE inches higher

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[LONDON] UK shares managed a meagre gain on Thursday after a three-day losing streak as Britain's third-biggest company, Unilever, fell after announcing it would make Rotterdam its sole legal home a year before Brexit.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.1 per cent at 7,139.76 points at its close, recovering some losses from the day before thanks to gains in financials, healthcare and industrials.

The diplomatic tensions between Britain and Russia have so far had little impact on British shares.

Unilever , which said it would keep its London listing despite scrapping its London corporate headquarters, was down 1.7 per cent.

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It remained unclear whether Unilever could still keep its place on the FTSE 100 index.

"It may have a short term impact on demand for the shares however, as institutional investors may have to shuffle their decks a bit," said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

However, sentiment around consumer stocks was further dented after shares of mid-cap soap and shampoo maker PZ Cussons dropped more than 16 per cent after the group issued a profit warning, posting its biggest one-day drop on record.

"Consumer confidence remains an issue in the UK due to economic uncertainty and high inflation/low wage growth conundrum. Inflation is also dampening demand and prices in Nigeria," said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.

"A cost cutting review has also been announced, focusing on less packaging and fewer, simpler but bigger projects. But will this be enough?"

Morgan Stanley and Barclays have already reduced their financial targets for the stock.

Elsewhere retail landlord Hammerson posted the worst performance of the FTSE, down nearly 5 per cent after a downgrade from Credit Suisse, which cut its target price to 460 pence from 605 pence.

Kier Group was another mid-cap faller, down 3.7 per cent, after a trading update.

Hikma topped the mid-size index with a 19 per cent rise after brokers issued positive recommendations for the drugmaker.

Spirax-Sarco Engineering was the winner on the broader pan-European Stoxx 600, up 6 per cent after it reported better-than-expected full-year revenues.

REUTERS