Madrid stocks sink on Catalan woes; London hits record

Roland JACKSON
 

The Spanish stock market sank Friday after a victory for Catalan separatists in a snap poll, but London hit a record peak in a "Santa Rally" before closing early for Christmas.

On the other side of the Atlantic (Shanghai: 600558.SS - news) , Wall Street stocks dipped in the wake of mixed US economic data and as Nike (Sao Paolo: NIKE34.SA - news) fell after reporting a drop in quarterly sales in North America.

Madrid's benchmark IBEX 35 index of top companies ended the session around 1.2 percent lower.

The European single currency meanwhile declined against the dollar, having already stumbled as the Catalan result filtered across traders' screens.

Catalonia plunged into further uncertainty Friday after separatists won a crucial snap poll called following a failed independence bid that rattled Europe and triggered Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

With (Other OTC: WWTH - news) turnout at a record high of 82 percent, Thursday's election handed a mandate back to the region's ousted separatist leaders after they campaigned from exile and behind bars.

"Investors in Spain lost their Christmas cheer," said IG (Frankfurt: A0EARV - news) analyst Jasper Lawler.

"It's a frustrating result for shareholders invested in Spain to capture the country's rising economic fortunes. Political disruption looks like it will be an ongoing feature of investing in Spain."

- London zooms to record -

London's FTSE 100 index however zoomed its way to another intra-day record high at 7,614.40 points in low-volume trade, boosted by overnight Wall Street gains and the softer pound.

"I think the softer pound has played an important role over the last month or so, as has the tax reform-fuelled Santa rally in the US, with a number of FTSE 100 firms having exposure to the economy," Oanda analyst Craig Erlam told AFP.

However, the FTSE later closed at 1230 GMT for an early finish at 7,592.66 points, down almost 0.2 percent from Thursday's closing level.

Trade was choppy with many investors away for extended Christmas and New Year festivities.

"The FTSE 100 is finishing in suitably festive fashion, having carved out a new record high," noted IG analyst Chris Beauchamp.

"Meanwhile in Europe the atmosphere is less convivial, as risk assets take a knock following the separatists' narrow victory in the Catalonia poll yesterday."

Frankfurt stocks declined 0.3 percent and Paris dipped 0.4 percent.

The Frankfurt, Madrid and Paris stock markets trade as normal on Friday but London faced a half-day session.

All four European bourses will be shut next Monday and Tuesday for Christmas and Boxing Day, but re-open for business on Wednesday.

- Bitcoin slumps -

Bitcoin prices plunged by a quarter on Friday as investors cashed out just before Christmas after the volatile currency's stratospheric rise in recent weeks.

The precipitous drop comes after a series of warnings by analysts and governments about a bubble that could burst at any moment as investors, many inexperienced, piled into the unit hoping to enjoy some of the eye-watering gains.

The controversial cryptocurrency fell to just above $12,000, according to industry websites.

That is down almost 40 percent down from its record high of $19,500 seen on Monday, according to Bloomberg.

"It has certainly been a volatile trading week for Bitcoin," said FXTM analyst, Lukman Otunuga.

"The aggressively bearish price action witnessed this week may prompt investors to start questioning if Bitcoin will recover from the selloff or remain depressed moving into the New Year."

- Key figures around 1640 GMT -

Madrid - IBEX 35: DOWN 1.2 percent at 10,162.00 points

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,592.66 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.2 at 13,072.79 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,364.72 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,553.73

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.2 percent at 24,731.35

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 22,902.76 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.7 percent at 29,578.01 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,297.06 (close)

Euro/dollar: FKAT at $1.1841

Pound/dollar: FLAT at $1.3367

Dollar/yen: FLAT at 113.32 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 41 cents at $64.49 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN nine cents at $58.27

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