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London open: FTSE flat as Aviva, ex-divs weigh ahead of ECB meeting

Thu, 8th Mar 2018 07:58

(ShareCast News) - Equity indices in London and the pound were both flat on Thursday morning, ahead of the latest monetary policy statement from the European Central Bank later and as the US began to make concessions on trade.

Stocks in Asia finished on the front foot after stocks on Wall Street pared early losses overnight on reports that Canada and Mexico could get exemptions from Trump's planned import tariffs on steel and aluminium.

At 0843 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down by less than one point at 7,157.79 as a host of stocks went ex-dividend as usual on Thursday, while the FTSE 250 mid-cap index was up 35 points at just over 19,800. The pound was flat on the dollar at 1.3890 and the euro at 1.1196.

On the simmering US trade tension, CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: "We should get the final details in the next day or so with reports that President Trump will announce the details either today or tomorrow, while markets will also be paying attention as to who will replace Mr Cohn. There were concerns that Peter Navarro, one of President Trump's more hawkish trade advisors might be in the frame for the role, however he appeared to rule himself out yesterday."

With little else in terms of economic catalysts on International Women's Day, analysts said the ECB interest rate decision at lunchtime and president Mario Draghi's speech soon after will be keenly watched by traders. The latest ECB staff projections will also provide some grist for the market mill and Draghi's Q&A session will be scrutinised for any "subtle shift in rhetoric" as to what might happen after September this year when the current bond buying programme is due to end, said Lee Wild at broker Interactive Investor.

The ECB rate announcement is at 1245 GMT, while the press conference is at 1330 GMT.

Back in the UK, investors were digesting the latest RICS residential survey, which showed the balance of surveyors reporting that house prices have risen over the last three months fell to zero in February from +8 in January, below the consensus +7. The new buyer enquiries balance fell to -16, from -11 in January, remaining below zero for the 11th consecutive month.

"The downturn in housing market activity accelerated in February, indicating that the stimulus to demand from the Chancellor's stamp duty reforms has been outweighed by the prospect of further increases in interest rates," said economist Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

He noted that new buyer demand has not fallen for such a protracted period since the 2008/09 financial crisis.

In corporate news, Aviva was down despite a bullish full year report. Earnings per share grew 7% and the dividend 18% and the life insurer upgraded its growth targets to aim above 5% EPS growth from 2018, with 55-60% to be paid out in dividends.

G4S fell 3.5% even though the security company reported a 6.5% rise in underlying annual profit and that the outlook for its business was good.

Estate agent Countrywide tanked after it revealed it had entered 2018 with pipeline significantly below 2017. The first half will see lower EBITDA and it is unlikely to be recovered in the second.

Randgold Resources fell after a meeting with the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo produced little assurances for mining companies over their concerns about the country's new mining code.

Domino's Pizza UK & Ireland scooted higher as sales increased 15% but profits only by 10%. UK sales in the first eight weeks of 2018 were said to have got off to a strong start.

Euromoney Institutional Investor was little moved after completing the acquisition of research outfit Extel from WeConvene.

Britvic was one of the top risers after being upgraded to 'overweight' by Morgan Stanley after a material pull-back in the shares lately.

Persimmon led the fallers as it was one of the band of stocks going ex-dividend, also including BHP, CRH, Land Securities, Standard Chartered and Thomas Cook.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,150.11 -0.11%

FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,780.43 0.03%

techMARK (TASX) 3,356.58 0.38%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,645.00p 2.32%

ITV (ITV) 155.00p 2.01%

Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 938.00p 1.52%

WPP (WPP) 1,224.00p 1.12%

Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,665.00p 0.73%

Informa (INF) 715.80p 0.68%

Sage Group (SGE) 687.40p 0.64%

Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,160.00p 0.64%

Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 468.35p 0.63%

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 4,524.00p 0.58%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Evraz (EVR) 434.20p -4.59%

Persimmon (PSN) 2,522.00p -4.58%

BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,396.40p -3.27%

Aviva (AV.) 494.40p -2.60%

CRH (CRH) 2,420.00p -1.79%

Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 3,168.00p -1.55%

Anglo American (AAL) 1,732.00p -1.53%

Standard Chartered (STAN) 771.90p -1.25%

Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,916.00p -1.07%

Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,701.50p -1.04%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 344.26p 8.29%

Britvic (BVIC) 724.50p 6.23%

Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 1,378.00p 2.45%

Pagegroup (PAGE) 522.50p 2.35%

Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,254.00p 2.28%

Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,075.00p 1.70%

Stobart Group Ltd. (STOB) 231.50p 1.54%

BCA Marketplace (BCA) 157.00p 1.16%

Cineworld Group (CINE) 228.40p 1.15%

Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 216.20p 1.12%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Alfa Financial Software Holdings (ALFA) 389.50p -18.51%

AA (AA.) 78.80p -7.69%

John Laing Group (JLG) 259.40p -5.40%

Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 496.70p -4.33%

Dixons Carphone (DC.) 188.20p -2.06%

Capita (CPI) 156.25p -1.82%

Ladbrokes Coral Group (LCL) 161.40p -1.74%

Vedanta Resources (VED) 730.80p -1.69%

IP Group (IPO) 111.60p -1.41%

Caledonia Investments (CLDN) 2,713.30p -1.33%

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