London Markets: FTSE 100 keeps dancing just below its all-time high

U.K. stocks looked marooned Thursday, as the equity market’s main benchmark showed little change, having rallied more than 2% so far this month to within striking distance of a fresh record.

FTSE eyes all-time high: The FTSE 100 index UKX, +0.05%  edged up by less than 0.1% to 7,535.72, keeping the gauge about 0.2% below its record close, achieved on May 26.

The London benchmark has recently been boosted by a slide in the pound and by renewed confidence that Prime Minister Theresa May can hold onto cabinet support for her Brexit plans.

The gauge is up 0.2% for the week and showing an October gain of 2.2%. It closed down less than 0.1% on Wednesday.

What strategists are saying: The FTSE 100 was “becalmed” on Wednesday, and additional muted action might be needed after the benchmark’s recent advance, according to Ian Williams, a Peel Hunt strategist.

“A spell of consolidation may well be necessary,” he said in a note Thursday.

Stock movers: Sky PLC’s stock SKY, +1.59%  was among the notable gainers, rising 0.7%. On Thursday, Europe’s biggest pay-TV company posted an 11% gain in a key profit metric for the first quarter of fiscal 2018. Sky said new subscriptions were up 51% on the year and it is on track to meet its full-year targets.

Sky’s update “suggests things remain pretty hard in ad land, but “these were pretty solid results,” said Neil Wilson, a senior market analyst at ETX Capital, in a note.

Standard Chartered PLC’s stock STAN, -0.77%  was among the biggest decliners, falling 0.9%. In a rare move, the International Monetary Fund, in its twice-yearly Global Financial Stability Report, said the Asia-focused bank has a “weak earnings” outlook. Credit Suisse analysts also have warned the lender’s current valuation is too generous.

Sterling edges up: The pound GBPUSD, +0.0529%  traded at $1.3246, up modestly from $1.3223 late Wednesday in New York.

A stronger pound can weigh on the FTSE 100, as many of the index’s multinational companies make most of their sales in foreign-denominated currencies.

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