The FTSE 100 surged to its highest levels of the day on Tuesday as increased risk appetite bolstered gains for financial and mining stocks. Investors were looking ahead to tomorrow's EU summit with optimism, as pressure builds on Eurozone leaders to take action to stem the debt crisis.
The European Council is holding an informal dinner tomorrow where the members are expected to discuss both situation in Greece and measures to increase growth. French President François Hollande is expected to press German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the implementation of the so-called 'eurobonds' (debt issued and backed by the entire Eurozone together).
The Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) has today backed Hollande's call for eurobonds as "additional measures towards the establishment of a 'growth compact'" are needed to combat the impact of austerity. The OECD also cut its Eurozone gross domestic profit growth forecast from 0.2% to -0.1% for 2012.
Equity markets gave a rather muted reaction to the news that Fitch Ratings downgraded its rating for Japan from AA to A+, issuing a negative outlook in response to increasing public debt levels. Japan's gross general government debt is projected to hit 239% of GDP by the end of the year, "by far the highest for any Fitch-rated sovereign", the ratings agency said.
UK price rises slowed faster than expected in April pushing the inflation rate down to 3%, the lowest it has been in two years. Analysts had expected the Consumer Prices Index to fall to 3.1%, from 3.5% in March and said that the bigger fall would encourage the Bank of England to increase its £325bn stimulus programme.
The UK public sector posted a surplus of £16.5bn in April 2012, according to data out from the Office for National Statistics. That however was entirely due to the large one-off transfer of the £28bn Royal Mail Pension Plan to the government.
FTSE 100: Financials, miners wanted as risk appetite increases
Banking peers RBS, Barclays and Lloyds and mining group Kazakhmys, Rio Tinto and Vedanta were among the best performers of the day by the close as investors shifted into 'riskier' assets - these two sectors bore the brunt of the Eurozone-fuelled sell-off last week.
Also helping things in the mining sector today was speculation that China may be considering further stimulus measures to combat a slowdown. The China Securities Journal said that the government might speed up approvals for infrastructure investment after having reportedly asked for project proposals by the summer instead of the end of the year in an effort to stimulate the world's second-largest economy. Miners rose strongly on hopes that a stronger Chinese economy could lead to stronger demand for commodities.
Mobile phone networks giant Vodafone was in demand after saying it is expecting underlying growth in adjusted operating profit and stability in free cash flow in the current financial year. In the year just gone (ending March 31st), group revenue rose 1.2% from a year earlier to £46.4bn, slightly ahead of forecasts of £46.3bn.
High Street giant Marks and Spencer rose despite seeing profits drop by 15.7% in the year ended March 31st while slashing its short-term sales growth targets. Nevertheless, the full-year dividend was maintained at 17p per share with Chief Executive Marc Bolland saying that the company "performed well in a challenging economic environment".
FTSE 250: HomeServe drops 29% on FSA probe
It never rains but it pours at emergency home repairs group HomeServe, as the firm revealed that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was investigating 'certain historic issues'. "While the shares have decreased by 53% since the suspension of UK sales activities on Oct 31st, they will now remain under pressure," correctly predicted Charles Stanley's Andy Smith.
In terms of results, the firm had already prepped the market in March that it was trading in line with expectations, so the figures will come as no surprise. Profit before tax was up 8% to £126m on revenues that were up 14% to £534.7m. However, shares were down 29.24% by the close.
Intermediate Capital, the mezzanine financing company, surged after hiking its dividend and growing profits despite strong Eurozone headwinds. Adjusted profits before tax in the 12 months to the end of March were £198.8m compared to £190.1m in the prior year.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 21.95p +5.53%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,582.00p +5.26%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,387.00p +5.16%
Barclays (BARC) 188.90p +4.94%
Wolseley (WOS) 2,255.00p +4.59%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 27.61p +4.52%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,076.00p +4.47%
IMI (IMI) 920.00p +4.37%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 737.50p +4.31%
Carnival (CCL) 2,077.00p +4.27%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Man Group (EMG) 77.65p -1.46%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 268.00p -0.89%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 690.50p -0.72%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,386.00p -0.57%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,398.00p -0.50%
Evraz (EVR) 320.10p -0.44%
Tesco (TSCO) 309.80p -0.43%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 2,650.00p -0.17%
International Power (IPR) 419.00p +0.07%
National Grid (NG.) 669.50p +0.07%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 265.10p +16.63%
Bumi (BUMI) 435.00p +13.58%
Yule Catto & Co (YULC) 203.50p +8.07%
Victrex (VCT) 1,358.00p +6.51%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 69.00p +6.40%
Talvivaara Mining Company (TALV) 156.70p +6.24%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 120.90p +6.05%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 226.80p +5.93%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 229.20p +5.09%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 131.40p +5.04%
The share price of FTSE 250 upstream exploration and production firm Heritage Oil surged on Wednesday after the company said that production at its OML 30 licence in Nigeria is back at normal levels. [Wed 15:19]
M&A activity was the theme of the day in London on Wednesday as heavyweight stocks British Sky Broadcasting, Severn Trent and Vodafone grabbed the headlines. Nevertheless, after a choppy start, the FTSE 100 managed to register moderate gains by lunchtime. [Wed 12:04]
Ahead of a busy day on the economic data front, stocks are expected to open sharply lower on Wednesday, with City sources predicting that the FTSE 100 will open around 50 points lower from yesterday's close of 6,559. [5 Jun '13]
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