(Alliance News) -Â The mood was cautious on Monday as markets eye up a bumper week ahead, with earnings from the likes of Apple and Amazon due in the coming days as well as a US interest rate decision.
Heaping pressure on the blue-chip FTSE 100 at the start of the week was a stronger pound, on account of a weaker dollar, which was offsetting gains for travel stocks on hopes for US-EU travel this summer.
The FTSE 100 was down just 2.05 points at 6,936.51 on Monday. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index was up 82.44 points, or 0.4%, at 22,454.70. The AIM All-Share index was up 0.3% at 1,268.81.
The Cboe UK 100 index was up 0.1% at 690.33 The Cboe 250 was up 0.6% at 20,106.38, and the Cboe Small Companies up 0.1% at 14,469.62.
In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris was slightly higher while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt was down 0.1% on Monday.
"European markets have kicked off the week in somewhat hesitance fashion today," commented Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG.
Ahead of a bumper week for corporate earnings on both sides of the Atlantic - in the UK the likes of BP, Barclays and GlaxoSmithKline being just some of the companies reporting - and an interest rate decision from the US Federal Reserve, there were grounds for caution on Monday.
"For the FTSE, we are seeing some negative impact coming from a strengthening pound, while travel names provide the basis for the more optimistic reopening side of the trade," said Mahony.
While India grapples with a brutal wave of coronavirus infections and other countries in Asia, such as Japan and Thailand, also deal with rising cases, there was some cause for optimism amongst travel firms after European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said vaccinated US tourists will be able to visit the EU in the coming months.
Signalling a major change in EU policy as vaccinations step up worldwide, von der Leyen gave no timetable, but the New York Times said that the new rules could be in place by this summer.
The EMA, the bloc's drug regulator, has approved the three vaccines being used in the US â€“ Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
The Times said the US's rapid vaccination programme, and progress in talks over how to use vaccine certificates, were behind the plan to allow the return of leisure travel from the US to EU. Von der Leyen said that the US was making "huge progress" and noted it was on track to vaccinate 70% of adults by the middle of June.
London's travel stocks were higher in midday trade. Jet engine maker Rolls-Royce rose 3.9% while British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines advanced 3.6%.
Also in the green was Pearson, up 3.0% on a good start to 2021. The education publisher said sales rose 5% annually on an underlying basis during the first quarter of the year. Pearson posted 25% growth in its Global Online Learning unit and a 1% hike in North American Courseware. In Global Assessment and International, sales fell 2%.
"It's been a good start to the year for Pearson, delivering 5% sales growth in the quarter. This is despite a longer period of disruption from Covid-19 in the quarter compared to last year. I'd like to thank colleagues for their ongoing dedication and hard work," Chief Executive Andy Bird said.
Towards the bottom of the FTSE 100 were stocks sensitive to fluctuations in sterling, such as cigarette maker British American Tobacco and distiller Diageo, which fell 1.4% and 1.1% respectively as the pound rose.
Sterling was quoted at USD1.3906 on Monday, up from USD1.3847 at the London equities close on Friday.
"The dollar is starting the week as it finished on Friday, losing ground to other major currencies, with the dollar Index dropping to lows not seen since the beginning of March. The weakness of the American currency results from the gathering pace of the global economic recovery, with data published last week revealing that Europe and elsewhere are closing the gap on the United States, leading to the strengthening of the respective currencies," said Ricardo Evangelista, senior analyst at ActivTrades.
Both the euro and Japanese yen climbed as the dollar softened.
The euro traded at USD1.2092 on Monday, up from USD1.2062 late Friday. Against the yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY107.77, down from JPY108.34 late Friday in London.
Gold was quoted at USD1,778.96 an ounce on Monday, nudging up from USD1,776.95 on Friday. Brent oil was trading at USD64.93 a barrel, lower than USD66.09 late Friday.
Back in London, IMI shares surged 8.6% after the specialist engineering firm raised its guidance and unveiled a GBP200 million share buyback programme.
Organic revenue increased 7.7% year-on-year on a constant currency basis to GBP421 million in the first quarter of 2021, with growth at all three business units strong. Profits and operating cashflow increased, and margins improved significantly, the engineering firm said, without providing figures.
As a result, the Birmingham-based company increased its guidance for 2021 adjusted earnings per share to between 81p and 87p, from between 75p and 82p, before taking into account the share buyback. Adjusted EPS in 2020 was 79.7p, so IMI's guidance is for an increase of as much as 9.2%.
IMI said it will buy back around GBP200 million of shares, thanks to the improved performance and robust cash generation.
Tate & Lyle rose 5.8% on plans to explore a break-up by selling a controlling stake in its Primary Products business.
A trimmed down Tate & Lyle would allow the units to "focus their respective strategies and capital allocation priorities and create the opportunity for enhanced shareholder value".
A deal would allow Tate & Lyle to focus on its Food & Beverage Solutions arm, which develops ways to reduce sugar, fat and calories while adding fibre to products. The Primary Products arm produces industrial starches and sweeteners.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Tate & Lyle has started a GBP1.2 billion auction for the Primary Products division.
Shares in Lancashire Holdings rose 4.1% after Bank of America started the insurer with a Buy rating.
In New York, stocks are on track for a mixed start on Monday ahead of what promises to be a bumper week for earnings. The Dow Jones is called up 0.1%, but the S&P 500 is seen opening 0.1% lower and the Nasdaq down 0.3%.
After the market close on Monday, electric car maker Tesla reports, followed by software firm Microsoft and Google owner Alphabet on Tuesday, iPhone maker Apple and social media giant Facebook on Wednesday and e-commerce firm Amazon.com on Thursday.
Ending the week are reports from oil majors Exxon Mobil and Chevron on Friday.
"This week starts with Tesla's earnings report which has high expectations on it and will surely be under focus as investors eye any signs of slowing down in the progress made by the company that was just recently added to the S&P 500 at the end of 2020," said Walid Koudmani, market analyst at XTB.
Tesla shares closed up 1.4% on Friday and were trading a modest 0.3% higher pre-market on Monday.
By Lucy Heming;Â email@example.com
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