- 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%
Carnival topped the risers as strong first-quarter results prompted a lift in full year earnings guidance. It boasted that advance bookings for the remainder of 2015 were steaming ahead of the prior year and at higher prices. [Fri 13:12]
Standard Chartered topped the risers after having its rating upgraded from 'neutral' to 'overweight' at JPMorgan. The broker said: "We believe that last week's UK budget may lead the market to attach a higher probability of strategic actions to change domicile and unlock value." [23 Mar '15]
Shares in Next slumped as the fashion retailer took a cautious view of the outlook for the 2015-2016 financial year, saying some of its collections are "not as strong as they were at this point last year". [19 Mar '15]
BHP Billiton's decision to de-merge some of its non-core activities into a new vehicle, South 32, opens up some intriguing possibilities, according to The Times' Tempus column. In essence, the Australian miner is hoping the new company will eventually become the target of a takeover. Unlike most miners, it will not have any exposure to iron ore. Furthermore, as an Aussie outfit it will not be eligible for inclusion in the various indices. [18 Mar '15]
After dipping into the red around midday, UK stocks rallied into the close with the FTSE 100 finishing 0.5% higher on the back of decent gains in the oil sector ahead of Wednesday's Budget statement. [17 Mar '15]
Building materials group CRH was extending losses after Holcim on Monday rejected the terms of its proposed tie-up with Lafarge. CRH is set to snap up €6.5bn of assets from the two European cements companies when they merge. [17 Mar '15]
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