12-20-17 4:35 AM EST | Email Article

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch

U.K. stocks on Wednesday wavered, with the International Monetary Fund set to offer its assessment of the British economy, but blue chips remained close to a six-week high.

London-listed shares were lower alongside other global markets, which were unable to gain much traction after U.S. lawmakers made a major push forward into overhauling the country's tax code.

How markets are moving: The FTSE 100 index was up 1 point at 7,545.46 after dipping into negative territory. The basic materials and health care groups were gaining the most, but consumer goods and utilities were among the sector that fell. On Tuesday, the index rose 0.1% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-sticks-around-6-week-high-with-us-tax-vote-on-deck-2017-12-19) and marked it best close since Nov. 6.

Apparel and accessories retailer Next PLC (NXT.LN) was among top performers on FTSE 100 as its shares rose 0.9%. But NMC Health PLC (NMC.LN) fell 2.4% after a trading update.

The pound bought $1.3400, up from $1.3385 late Tuesday in New York. The 10-year gilt yield rose 3 basis points to 1.23%, according to Tradeweb. Yields rise when prices fall.

What's moving markets: The International Monetary Fund's chief Christine Lagarde is in London and slated to speak about the organization's report on the U.K. economy. The IMF in October downgraded its outlook for growth in 2017 by 0.3 percentage points to 1.7%. Treasury Secretary Philip Hammond was also scheduled to appear at the event scheduled for 10 a.m. London time, or 5 a.m. Eastern Time.

Also on tap, Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney and other policy makers will discuss the central bank's financial stability report with the Treasury Select Committee at 1:15 p.m. London time, or 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time.

Traders will also look for a reading on retail sales from the CBI's Distributive Trades survey.

London-listed shares popped higher Tuesday in anticipation of a vote on tax reform in Washington. Congressional Republicans are now getting closer to sending a bill on tax cuts and other changes to President Donald Trump to sign into law. The Senate passed a massive overhaul of the tax code (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/republican-tax-bill-clears-house-and-heads-to-senate-for-vote-2017-12-19)early Wednesday and the House is expected to follow suit.

What strategists are saying: "Global equity markets are struggling to find any significant direction or momentum as we approach Christmas, with low volumes and little news to move markets," said Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor, in a note.

"Even the U.S. tax reform bill passing its last major hurdle in the US. Senate, and a foregone conclusion to be passed in the House later today, had been so priced in that the muted reaction was not a surprise," she said.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 04:35 ET (09:35 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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