(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London continued to tread higher at midday on Thursday with heavyweight miners driving the FTSE 100, while attention turns to the US where earnings season continues with updates from more major banks.
The FTSE 100 index was up 26.96 points, or 0.4%, at 6,966.46. The mid-cap FTSE 250 was up 89.73 points, or 0.4%, at 22,445.18. The AIM All-Share index was up 0.3% at 1,247.51.
The Cboe UK 100 index was up 0.4% at 693.40. The Cboe 250 was up 0.5% at 20,084.40. The Cboe Small Companies was up 0.4% at 14,482.75.
In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 index in Paris and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt were up 0.2% and 0.3% respectively.
"Mining stocks have come to the rescue, helping the FTSE 100 advance... Iron ore prices have been picking up again on tight near-term supply, helping to drive up the likes of Rio Tinto, BHP and Anglo American," said AJ Bell's Russ Mould.
Rio, BHP and Anglo American were up 1.8%, 1.7% and 1.1% respectively.
In the FTSE 100, Kingfisher was the best performer, up 3.8%, after Citigroup raised the DIY retailer to Neutral from Sell.
Entain was up 1.8% after the gambling firm said it delivered a strong first-quarter performance, continuing the momentum seen at the end of 2020 and in line with expectations.
For the quarter ended March 31, online net gaming revenue rose 33% to mark Entain's 21st consecutive quarter of double-digit Online NGR growth.
However, Retail NGR fell 99% during the three months, as betting shops were closed due to lockdown restrictions. Entain owns the Ladbrokes and Coral high-street chains in the UK. Total group NGR was down 13%. As part of the UK government's roadmap out of lockdown, non-essential retail stores - including betting shops - were permitted to reopen at the start of the week.
At the other end of the large-caps, Legal & General and St James's Place were the worst performers, down 4.2% and 2.8% respectively. The stocks went ex-dividend meaning new buyers no longer qualify for the latest payout.
In the FTSE 250, Travis Perkins was up 2.1% after the builders' merchant said it made an encouraging start to the year and its demerger of its Wickes DIY business was on track.
For the first-quarter to the end of March, like-for-like sales growth - excluding Wickes - was up 17% year-on-year. At Wickes, like-for-like sales growth was up 20%.
Travis Perkins said the Wickes demerger is due to complete with trading in Wickes shares commencing on April 28. Travis Perkins' share consolidation will become effective following the market close on April 28, with trading in new Travis Perkins shares commencing on April 29.
At the other end of the midcaps, Jupiter Fund Management was the worst performer, down 3.3%, after going ex-dividend.
Elsewhere, Deliveroo was 1.4% lower at 266.40 pence after the food delivery platform maintained its full-year guidance after a sharp acceleration in orders in the first quarter, though cautiously eyed a relaxation of lockdown rules ahead. The stock is down 32% from its IPO price of 390p.
In its maiden trading update as a London-listed company, Deliveroo said it made "significant progress" in the first quarter ended March 31, with total orders more than doubling to 71 million from 33 million. Gross transaction value also shot up in the first quarter, at GBP1.65 billion versus just GBP715 million a year ago. Gross transaction value per order rose 8% to GBP23.2 from GBP21.5.
Looking ahead, Deliveroo said it mindful of the uncertainty of the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions on the hospitality sector, as online ordering platforms have excelled during lockdown conditions over the past year.
Deliveroo expects the rate of growth to decelerate as lockdowns ease, but the extent of the deceleration remains "uncertain".
The pound was quoted at USD1.3781 at midday Thursday, down from USD1.3793 at the London equities close on Wednesday.
The euro was priced at USD1.1965, down from USD1.1975. Against the Japanese yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY108.84, down from JPY108.96.
Brent oil was trading at USD66.23 a barrel Thursday at midday, lower than USD66.32 late Wednesday. Gold was trading at USD1,746.65 an ounce, up from USD1,736.27.
New York stock market futures were pointed higher, with banks once again in focus following blowout profit reports from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve said it will likely scale back its bond purchases before considering raising interest rates.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was called up 0.4%, the S&P 500 index up 0.5% and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.6%.
Focus lies on lenders Citigroup and Bank of America as well as asset manager BlackRock on Thursday, which are following up the strong start to first quarter earnings season set by Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. In pre-market trade, Citi and BofA shares were up 0.8% and 1.2% respectively, while BlackRock was 0.1% lower.
Bank of America said it expects an accelerated recovery going forward as its pretax income increased in the first quarter of 2021.
Non-interest expense rose 15% to USD15.5 billion, driven by elevated net Covid-19 costs. Loan and lease balances in the business segments declined 7% to USD887 billion, driven primarily by declines in commercial loans and lower card balances. Deposits rose by 25% to USD1.8 trillion.
Meanwhile, BlackRock reported a surge in assets under management over the first quarter, with the investment manager enjoying record net inflows.
For the three months to March 31, the New York-headquartered investment manager recorded diluted earnings per share of USD7.77, up 51% from USD5.15 the year before. Net income all but doubled to USD1.27 billion from USD627 million year on year. Total revenue rose 19% to USD4.40 billion from USD3.71 billion.
BlackRock ended the first quarter with assets under management of USD9.007 trillion, up 39% from USD6.467 trillion at the same point a year before. The investment manager ended 2020 with USD8.677 trillion in assets under management.
On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell also said the US government's borrowing was on an "unsustainable path" but the current debt level is "very sustainable" and the government will have no problem servicing it.
Powell acknowledged the debt - currently USD22.96 trillion - "is growing meaningfully faster than the economy and that's by definition unsustainable over time."
"We will reach the time at which we will taper asset purchases when we've made substantial further progress toward our goals from last December, when we announced that guidance," Powell said in an appearance before the Economic Club of Washington.
However, Powell once again stressed that central bankers are waiting to see inflation hold "moderately" above the Fed's 2.0% inflation target for some time, and for employment to fully recover before they consider raising the benchmark lending rate.
Thursday's economic calendar has the latest US jobless claims reading and US retail sales data at 1330 BST.
By Arvind Bhunjun; email@example.com
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