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Chinese exports numbers give US markets a lift


US stocks have opened firmer on the back of encouraging export figures from China and an upbeat press conference from Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank.

Chinese exports in December were 14.1% higher than a year earlier, helping drive a sharp increase in the People’s Republic’s trade surplus to US$31.6bn.

In November, exports had been up a mere 2.9% year-on-year, while the trade surplus was US$19.6bn.

In Europe, Draghi cheered the market when he suggested that “we are now back in a normal situation from a financial viewpoint” though he cautioned that “we’re not at all seeing an economic recovery.”

On the US corporate front, fallen Finnish mobile phone giant was wanted in early trading after it rushed out details of its fourth quarter trading ahead of schedule.

The company, which has thrown its lot in with Microsoft’s mobile devices operating system after losing its market-leading position in the smartphone revolution, said it sold 4.4mln units of its flagship Lumia smartphone in the fourth quarter.

That’s a sharp improvement on the previous quarter’s 2.9mln units shipped, and the number could have been higher had there not been supply constraints.

Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) were up 16% to US$4.36 in New York trading. Five years ago the ADRs were trading at around US$36 a throw.

Media conglomerate News Corp was boosted by broker Sanford C Bernstein raising its rating on the stock from ‘market perform’ to ‘outperform’.

The Dow Jones is up 10 at 13,401 while the S&P 500 is up half a point at 1,462, but the tech-heavy NASDAQ is down 2 at 3,104.

Back in the UK, the blue-chip index has slipped into the red, giving up the morning’s gains.

The FTSE 100 is down 4 at 6,095.

Retail bellwether Marks & Spencer (LON:MKS) is looking a bit threadbare, down 0.8%, after releasing disappointing festive figures that were worse than City analysts had predicted.

The clothing and food retailer posted like-for-like sales down 1.8%, with underlying sales of non-food items, including clothes and homeware products, coming in 3.6% lower.

Investec bashed the company, while broker Espirito Santo cut the stock to ‘sell’ after the results.

A raft of retailers followed M&S south on the news, including Associated British Foods (LON:ABF), owner of the Primark brand.

Supermarket giant Tesco (LON:TSCO) is one of the few retailers to take the high road.

Its shares are up 1.8% after a Christmas trading period that saw like-for-like sales grow 1.7% excluding petrol.

This compared with a 0.9% hike in like-for-like revenues at rival Sainsbury (LON:SBRY) and a 2.5% fall posted by Morrisons (LON:MRW).

Distribution group Bunzl (LON:BNZL) is motoring, up 3.4% after unveiling three new acquisitions.

A raft of broker upgrades and downgrades saw stocks move and shake today.

Engineering firm Melrose Industries (LON:MRO) rose 6.9% after a bullish note from Deutsche Bank.

“Melrose at its core remains a management story and we think the strategy and current mix should drive the business going forward with the increasing likelihood of potential disposals presenting further upside,” said analyst Mark Fielding, who upgraded the stock to ‘buy’.

Bodycote (LON:BOY), the heat treatment and metal joining company, and pest control specialist Rentokil (LON:RTO) lost 1.4% and 2.6% respectively.

The former was cut to ‘sell’ by Citi, while the latter was dropped to ‘underweight’ by HSBC.

Ophir Energy (LON:OPHR) shares, meanwhile, were boosted 2.7% by an upgrade from Morgan Stanley, which advised investors to buy the stock.

Advanced Power Components (LON:APC) found itself near the top of the AIM leader board, soaring 18% after sealing a contract for its energy efficient LED lighting worth £2mln.

Joining it at the peak was Continental Coal (LON:COOL, ASX:CCC), up 29% despite claiming it is unaware of any reason for the recent share price rise.

TEG Group (LON:TEG) was not far behind, rising 16.7% after the biomass group revealed business improved “substantially” in the second half of 2012.

Jubilee Platinum (LON:JLP) was trading 6.7% higher after extending a power agreement with the South African authorities.

Semiconductor wafer products provider IQE (LON:IQE) has unveiled the blockbuster acquisition it hinted at earlier this week.

The company is paying US$75mln in cash for Kopin Wireless, the compound semiconductor epiwafer manufacturing business of US technology firm Kopin.

The acquisition will extend IQE’s market share in wireless industry supply and brings with it a Taiwan manufacturing facility.

Shares were up 18.8% on the news.


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July 31 2012

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