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FTSE 100 hits record high close, again

FTSE 100 stocks closed at a record high on Friday for a second successive session, after making a fresh intraday peak, and a good way for equity investors to end the week
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Admiral leads the battle charge to fresh record highs for FTSE
  • FTSE 100 hits intra- and closing record highs

  • Pound was up 0.21% against the dollar at $1.2385

  • Sterling gained 0.4% against the euro to 1.1521 euros

 

FTSE 100 stocks closed at a record high on Friday for a second successive session, after making a fresh intraday peak, and a good way for equity investors to end the week.

The FTSE 100 closed up 9 points or 0.1% higher at 7,424.96, having earlier marked an intraday record high of 7,447.00. Stocks were also 80 points higher on the week.

Financials fared well, with insurance group Admiral (LON:ADM) topping the blue-chip gainers with an advance of 1.9% to 1945p. If anything, the downside was how little stocks needed to top the charts this session.

RBS (LON:RBS) was among the risers on the FTSE 100, closing up 1.4% at 243p after upbeat comments from analysts at Natixis.

In the midcap FTSE 250 which rose by 0.4% to 19,094, housebuilder Berkeley Group (LON:BKG) was the biggest riser, climbing 6.1% to 3144p after it said its full-year profits were set to be at the top end of forecasts.

The company added that the housing market in London and the South East had now "stabilised" since the post-Brexit vote fall in sales.

Conversely, shares in Tullow Oil (LON:TLW) slumped by 14.8% to 202.3p on news of a rights issue and it was the biggest faller on the mid-caps board.

Tullow said it was planning to raise about £607mln through the share sale in order to cut its debts.

The FTSE AIM 100 Index rose by 0.2% to 4527 and the FTSE AIM All-Share Index was up 0.2% to 927.

Gainers led in London across the bourse, where 36% of stocks found upside and 29% fell.


 

1520 GMT - FTSE 100 in a battle to set new closing high

  • FTSE 100 flat at 7,415

  • Housebuilders buoyed by 'stabilising' property market

  • Ex-Barclays CEO Bob Diamond launches takeover of broker Panmure Gordon

  • George Osborne to become next editor of the London Evening Standard

 

The FTSE 100 has already broken its all-time closing high record once this week, but it’s got a battle on its hands if it wants to do it again.

For much of the day, the blue chip index had been trading well above yesterday’s close of 7,415 and had briefly set a new all-time intraday high of 7,442.95, but its rally looks to be running out of steam this afternoon.

Not long before close, the index was unchanged having fallen back to 7,415.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell summed up events, saying: “The midday burst of energy seems to have dissipated this Friday, with investors content to let the market settle at yesterday’s levels.”

The earlier boost came mainly from the banks and others in the finance industry, all buoyed by some upbeat broker reports today although even they have dropped from this morning’s highs.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) (up 1.5% to 244p), Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) (up 1% to 232p) and insurer Prudential PLC (LON:PRU) (up 1% to £17.65) all gained today.

The biggest and most consistent riser on the FTSE 100 this afternoon though was Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV), which gained a little more than 1.5% to 543p.

That was on the back of news from the FTSE 250’s top riser, Berkeley Group Holdings PLC (LON:BKG) (up 6% to £31.35), which said property markets in London and the South East had “stabilised”.

The biggest story of the day came courtesy of former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, though.

His New York-based private equity firm has launched a takeover of Panmure Gordon & Co. Plc (LON:PMR) valuing the broker – one of Britain’s oldest – at £15.5mln.

It’s a bit of a surprise move but, as you’d expect, Panmure shares have risen 68% or so to the 100p a share Diamond is offering shareholders.

International Consolidated Airlines Group PLC’s (LON:IAG) British Airways business has been hit with a £90.5mln fine over an alleged air cargo cartel.

BA and ten other airlines, including Air France-KLM, were fined £674mln by the European Commission for colluding to fix the level of fuel and security charges, officials said.

Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: "Millions of businesses depend on air cargo services, which carry more than 20% of all EU imports and nearly 30% of EU exports.

"Working together in a cartel rather than competing to offer better services to customers does not fly with the Commission.”

IAG shares had been up for most of Friday, but fell into the red on the news and were down 0.5% to 568p.

In the small caps, Chris Akers’ high profile tech investment firm Concha PLC (LON:CHA) dropped 5% to 0.45p after it posted a pre-tax loss of £3mln in the six months to December, up from £384,000 a year ago.

News around Concha had been dominated by advertising technology company Ve Interactive Limited after its value plunged following a rescue deal last week.

Concha paid £4.0mln for a 0.43% stake in Ve Interactive in March 2016 when it touted it as an “exiting investment opportunity”. At the time, Ve was valued at £930mln.

Its value is now said to be £300mln following a £3mln emergency cash injection, led by Scottish billionaire Doug Barrowman’s Aston Ventures, last week and Concha is taking part in talks over another round of funding.

There was better news for marketing group Adgorithms Ltd (LON:ADGO), which climbed 19% to 19.5p as it picked up a contract with a global wellness conglomerate to use its ‘Albert’ artificial intelligence system in South America.

Describing the contract as significant, Adgorithms will deploy Albert across all the customers' online advertising campaigns, with a minimum of $300,000 annually in software fees.

This contract followed a four-month pilot that compared Albert with the customer's existing advertising agency.

Outside of the markets, the ‘gig’ economy added another member to its ranks today as former Chancellor George Osborne (rather surprisingly) snapped up another well-paid job.

Following on from the £650,000-a-year contract he recently signed with investment giant BlackRock for one day’s work each week, Osborne is set to receive another £200,000 to become the new editor of the London Evening Standard.

With all of his working days now occupied, no one is quite sure what this means for his constituents in Tatton, but he’s reportedly staying on as the area’s MP for a little while yet.

Elsewhere, the government has removed ads from YouTube amid concerns that they are appearing next to “inappropriate”.

The cabinet office is in talks with the video sharing site about how it will make sure Government-sponsored videos, such as job adverts for the army, will be displayed in a “safe and appropriate way”.

It’s not the first time YouTube has come in for criticism over the placing of adverts. The Guardian, Channel 4 and the BBC have also pulled their adverts in the past citing similar worries. 

 

1.30pm...FTSE 100 heads towards another record buoyed by banks

The FTSE 100 remained on the front foot as the markets moved into the afternoon session on Friday, putting it on track to break the record closing high it only set earlier this week.

The blue chip index was up 19 points to 7,435 shortly after 1pm, ahead of Thursday’s record close of 7,415.57.

The index was buoyed by the banks and financial services with Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) leading the way, up more than 2.5% to 246.6p.

As unlikely as it sounds, a number of reports reckon the rise came courtesy of a bullish note from French broker Natixis, which upgraded RBS from ‘reduce’ to ‘buy’ and upped its price target to 289p.

Natixis, part of Banque Populaire, said: “"The time is near when the long-standing strengths of the core bank will outweigh the material drag of legacy items.”

A cynic might say that something could come out in the wash over the weekend, given that share prices sometimes rise unexpectedly on a Friday as the Sunday papers start to make calls to gather their exclusives.

One broker that can move markets is Morgan Stanley, which upgraded Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) to ‘overweight’.

It also moved its price target up to 280p on a better outlook for fixed income revenue pools. Shares gained 1.4% to 232.6p.

Insurance giant Prudential PLC (LON:PRU) has continued its fine form from earlier and is up 1.4% to £17.77 after it too was the subject of an upbeat broker not, this time by JP Morgan.

Analysts said that Pru’s US business will gain from the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes, as well as the buoyant Wall Street stock market.

Earlier on we brought you the news that ex-Chancellor George Osborne has been appointed as the new editor of the London Evening Standard.

Osborne will reportedly earn in excess of £200,000 a week for his four days a week at the paper. That’s on top the £650,000 he’ll get for his one day a week at BlackRock.

That’s all five working days accounted for each week, and given that he’s expected to carry on in his role as MP for Tatton, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for the members of his constituency.

Theresa May, speaking at the Conservative Party Spring Conference, has promised to crack down on the prices charged by energy companies.

She said energy prices had risen 158% over the past 15 years and described the energy market as the “one market that is manifestly not working for all consumers”.

"Our party did not end the unjust and inefficient monopolies of the old nationalised energy corporations only to replace them with a system that traps the poorest customers on the worst deals," said Mrs May.

As for sterling, which has been a hot topic this week, it seems it was a rare quiet down for the currency markets as a whole.

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Chris Saint explains: ““Currency markets are taking a bit of a breather after a hectic week, with sterling close to the €1.15 level against the euro that it marched to after the Bank of England’s surprise interest rate vote split yesterday.

Sterling almost got as high as US$1.24 versus the US dollar earlier this morning, which is quite a reversal from the 8-week low close to US$1.21 seen on Tuesday before the Federal Reserve went on to dampen expectations over how quickly US interest rates might rise going forward.”

On a lighter note, Friday is quite often the day when you do your ‘big shop’ and/ or when you pick up a takeaway after a long, busy week.

Well now you might be able to do both, as an Indian takeaway has just opened up inside a Morrisons in Bradford.

According to Just Eat PLC (LON:JE.), which is providing the online delivery service, this is the first time a UK supermarket has leased out some of its space to a takeaway joint.

 

11.30am...Bob Diamond and George Osborne talk of the City

After a slow start to the morning, the FTSE 100 kicked into life just after 10am and is currently up 10 points or so to 7,426.

Most of those gains on the blue chip index have come courtesy of financial firms, buoyed by bullish broker notes.

Insurance giant Prudential PLC (LON:PRU) has continued its fine form from earlier in the week and is up 1.4% to £17.77 after it was upgraded by JP Morgan.

Analysts said that Pru’s US business will gain from the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes, as well as the buoyant Wall Street stock market.

Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) was also on the end of an upbeat note, this time from heavyweight Morgan Stanley. Shares gained 1.5% to 232.8p.

Speaking of Barclays, the bank’s former chief executive Bob Diamond was back in the headlines nearly five years after he resigned from his position in the wake of the LIBOR scandal.

His New York-based private equity firm has launched a takeover of Panmure Gordon & Co. Plc (LON:PMR), valuing the broker – one of Britain’s oldest – at £15.5mln.

It’s a bit of a surprise move but, as you’d expect, Panmure shares have risen 68% or so to the 100p a share Diamond is offering shareholders.

As one old face unexpectedly returned to the front pages, so did another. In an announcment very few would've seen coming, former Chancellor George Osborne has been appointed as editor of the London Evening Standard.

Osborne, who only recently signed a £650,000 contract to work for one day a week at investment giant BlackRock, is expected to continue in his role as MP for Tatton. He’s going to be a busy man, albeit one with a fat wallet.

Back to the markets, and housebuilder Berkeley Group Holdings PLC (LON:BKG) topped the FTSE 250 risers this morning after it told investors that pre-tax profits were likely to be at the top end of forecasts,

The company was ravaged in the aftermath of the referendum but news that the London and South East property markets – its main areas of focus – have picked up again was welcomed warmly by investors.

Shares in Berkeley were up 6% to £31.40, their highest since the days before the Brexit vote last June.

Tullow Oil plc (LON:TLW) was one of the biggest fallers in London on Friday, plunging almost 16% to 200p as markets reacted to news of a £607mln rights issue.

The oiler said it is looking to raise the money so it can reduce its debt and increase investments in drilling exploration in South America and Africa.

Elsewhere, London-listed International Consolidated Airlines Group PLC (LON:IAG) has launched a new low-cost, transatlantic airline called Level which will take to the skies this summer.

British Airways-owner IAG said the airline will fly from Barcelona to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Fares for Level flights will start from €99 (£86), but if you want checked luggage, meals and access to the latest movies, you’ll have to pay extra or choose premium economy tickets (also more money).

 

9am...FTSE 100 flat but Panmure sparkles as Diamond moves in

FTSE 100 opened lower, though early trading was overshadowed by the return of former Barclays boss Bob Diamond to the London financial stage.

London’s blue chip index fell five points to 7,410 after a dip in the US overnight and mixed performances in Asia.

But it was Bob DIamond making the headlines.

His New York-based private equity firm Atlas Merchant Capita has joined forces with QInvest, the Qatari investment bank that already owns a 43% stake, to buy Aim-listed broker Panmure Gordon. 

The deal values the entire issued share capital of Panmure at about £15.5mln and shareholders will receive 100p in cash for each share or a 68% premium to Wednesday’s price. Shares were trading at 105p early doors.

Diamond chose a good day to announce his return to London as there was little other corporate news.

Tullow Oil (LON:TLW) slumped 15% to 203p on a £750mln rights issue to restore its stretched balance sheet.

Reassuring comments about the London housing markets gave housebuilder Berkeley Group PLC a lift, with the share rising 6% to 3,139p. 

Proactive news headlines 

IGas Energy Plc (LON:IGAS) has revealed the extent of its proposed financial restructuring, with the debt-for-equity element expected to substantially reduce its debt. The UK shale gas group told investors that it will reduce debt from US$122mln to a maximum of US$10mln by issuing new shares to its lenders.

Range Resources Ltd (LON:RRL ASX:RRS) confirmed that its production averaged 495 barrels of oil per day in the six months ended December, with 24.4mln barrels oil equivalent in proved and probable (2P) reserves.

AIM-quoted natural resources specialist Rose Petroleum PLC (LON:ROSE) has made a major breakthrough in its bid reclaim US$760,000 of value added tax from the Mexican authorities. It has received the first tranche, US$72,100, and expects to bank US$210,000 by the end of the month. Shares rose 5% to 0.137p.

Uranium mine developer Berkeley Energia Limited (LON:BKY) unveiled “outstanding” results from the latest drilling on the Zona 7 portion of its Salamanca Project and sketched out plans to maximise the potential of its land holding in Spain. Shares rose 4% to 56.5p.

Horizonte Minerals Plc (LON:HZM; TSE:HZM) has confirmed that the feasibility study at its Araguaia nickel project in Brazil is on track to be completed by the end of 2017.

Niche lender Private & Commercial Finance Group plc (LON:PCF) is to tap the market to provide additional capital as it pursues its banking ambitions.

Ortac Resources Ltd (LON:OTC) has had the permit for its Sturec gold mine in Slovaki re-issued, sending it share price up 27%.

Jubilee Platinum PLC (LON:JLP)  raised £3.3mln from a placing at 5p as it bought another chunk of platinum tailings material in South Africa, its third tailings deal in a week. Shares eased 5% to 5.44p.

6.55am..FTSE 100 set to kick off the session on the back foot

The FTSE 100 looks set to take its cue from Wall Street rather than Asia by posting an opening fall.

The index of blue-chip shares, up over 47 points on Thursday, is set retreat 11 points to 7,404.95, according to the spread betting firms.

Disappointment that the US Federal Reserve is sticking to its three rate hikes this year rather than accelerating the process put Wall Street into reverse gear and sent the dollar tumbling.

In Asia the mood was more positive, with the exception of the Nikkei 225 and Shanghai Composite, which crept into the red.

Back here in the UK it is a busier than usual end to the trading week.

Berkeley Group PLC (LON:BKG) – which earlier this year was urged to take over Bovis – will book-end the period with a trading update.

In a recent note, Barclays also poured cold water on the notion that Berkeley would use its cash pile to buy out its struggling competitor – a move which a shareholder in Bovis was suggesting at the start of the year following that group’s shock profit warning and departure of its chief executive.

Comments on the impact of Brexit will be key, with Berkeley recently having revealed that 45% of its buyers are from overseas, and of those around 30% are owner-occupiers.

Brexit factors will be a focus for recruitment firm SThree PLC (LON:STHR) as well, which also issues a trading update on Friday.

The international specialist staffing group - which provides permanent and contract staff to a diverse client base, including technology, banking, energy and engineering - saw its full-year 2016 pretax profits slip by 1%, although its adjusted revenues rose by 6%.

Markets

  • Brent crude up 2 cents at US$51.76 a barrel.
  • Gold down 10 cents at US$1,227 an ounce.
  • Pound worth US$1.2380.

Business Headlines

  • Unilever should have held talks with Kraft Heinz instead of sharply rejecting the $143bn bid that led to the speedy withdrawal of the U.S. food group, according to a majority of its shareholders surveyed by a brokerage – FT.
  • Russian companies are in retreat from London’s stock market, stung by lacklustre valuations and investors wary of geographical risk and poor corporate governance – FT.
  • Regulators are to investigate Lloyds Banking Group’s £1.9bn acquisition of credit card provider MBNA from Bank of America amid concerns the deal could hurt competition in the industry – Telegraph.
  • Bob Diamond, the former Barclays Chief Executive, has joined forces with a Qatari investment bank to swoop on Panmure Gordon, one of Britain’s oldest stockbrokers – Telegraph.
  • Canary Wharf Group looks to sell £600mln stake in Walkie Talkie skyscraper – Telegraph.
  • Billionaire Philip Day, who owns Edinburgh Woollen Mill, has emerged as the front runner to acquire struggling high street chain Jaeger – Guardian.

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