- Ludowici issues overshadow impressive 2011 for Weir.
The Footsie lacked direction in the opening hour on Wednesday as investors hold out for the result of the European Central Bank's (ECB's) second longer term refinancing operation, to be announced later today. ITV and IAG led the risers early on, while Weir and a host of ex-div stocks weighed on the market.
Consensus expectations are for bank bids for the ECB's long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) worth €470bn in liquidity, with some analysts suggesting that anything over €400bn could elicit a positive reaction from equity markets.
At 09:45, Bank of England (BoE) Governor Mervyn King, Deputy Governors Charles Bean and Paul Tucker and external MPC member Adam Posen will appear before the Treasury Committee. In a speech last night the BoE Deputy Governor for Financial Stability, Tucker, said that easing regulatory constraints on banks in order to encourage lending and assist the economic recovery would be counterproductive.
Consultancy GfK's monthly index of consumer confidence remained at the -29 point level during the month of February, a seven month high. Consensus estimates has been for a small increase to -27.
ITV, IAG JUMP AFTER FULL-YEAR RESULTS
Terrestrial broadcaster ITV jumped over 7% after it shrugged off concerns about a subdued advertising market to achieve top-line growth and forecast-beating profits. External revenues were up 4% in 2010 to £2,140m from £2,064m in 2010, with the improvement driven by non-advertising revenues (NAR). Total non-net advertising revenues (non-NAR) jumped 11% to £922m from £829m in 2010, mainly due to revenue growth from the UK and international studios businesses.
British Airways and Iberia owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) reported a five-fold increase in pre-tax profit in the year ended December 31st, from €84m to €503m, respite a 29.7% increase in fuel costs.
Meanwhile, Asia-focused banking colossus Standard Chartered notched up its ninth successive year of record income and profit in 2011 and reckons it is in good shape to face whatever 2012 throws at it. The stock, along with banking peers Lloyds and HSBC, was making gains in early trading.
Leading the downside was Essar Energy, two days after reporting a sharp drop in full-year pre-tax profits.
Engineering giant Weir hit its 2014 profit targets early, after seeing adjusted pre-tax profits rise by a third in 2011, helped by record performances in its Minerals and Oil and Gas divisions. However, despite the strong performance, shares were down 3.5%, owing to the group's ongoing battles in its bidding war with Danish rival FLSmidth over the takeover of Australian mining equipment supplier Ludowici.
BHP Billiton and Diageo were among the fallers on the FTSE 100 after going trading without the right to its latest dividend. Meanwhile, Kier, Hays and easyJet were falling after going ex-dividend on the FTSE 250.
FTSE 250: INTERSERVE, NATIONAL EXPRESS IN DEMAND
Support services and construction group Interserve managed to increase profit despite tough conditions in construction markets in 2011. Gross revenue, which includes the company's share of associates and joint ventures, rose 0.2% to £2,430m in 2011 from £3,215m the year before.
National Express reported record annual profit and hiked its dividend after a stellar performance from its UK coach and US school bus operations. Pre-tax profit rose to £180.2m in the year ended 31 December 2011 from £97.3m the year before after growth in every division.
House builder Taylor Wimpey fell after reporting revenues and profits that came in shy of expectations.
FTSE 100 - Risers
ITV (ITV) 86.30p +7.20%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG) 168.00p +2.94%
GKN (GKN) 225.40p +1.44%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,083.00p +1.31%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 35.23p +1.13%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 565.50p +1.11%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,639.00p +1.05%
Schroders (SDR) 1,594.00p +1.01%
Serco Group (SRP) 553.50p +1.00%
Aviva (AV.) 373.30p +0.84%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Essar Energy (ESSR) 108.70p -4.14%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,129.00p -3.45%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 2,088.50p -1.46%
CRH (CRH) 1,323.00p -1.42%
Diageo (DGE) 1,488.50p -1.26%
WPP (WPP) 806.00p -1.10%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 391.70p -0.96%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,695.00p -0.95%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 171.05p -0.75%
Bunzl (BNZL) 939.00p -0.58%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Interserve (IRV) 305.00p +4.45%
National Express Group (NEX) 228.40p +3.25%
Bodycote (BOY) 410.00p +2.50%
Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CW.) 27.90p +2.39%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 227.90p +1.65%
HSBC topped the risers as it launched a review of its UK domicile in light of the changing regulatory landscape. Some media commentators suggested the announcement, carefully timed ahead of the general election, was politically motivated. [Yesterday 13:19]
Anglo American, owner of jeweler De Beers, surged on Thursday as the mining giant cut its forecast for annual diamond production in order to avoid overproduction in the weaker diamond market. [Thu 13:30]
After a brief stint in positive territory, UK stock markets dropped on Wednesday morning as the FTSE 100 came close to a record high, despite a surprisingly positive reaction to Tesco's worse-than-expected annual results. [Wed 08:53]
BHP Billiton announced it would postpone some plans to increase iron ore output, which analysts said signalled the first admission by a major producer of the need to curtail excessive supply growth. [Wed 07:15]
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