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Wall Street open muted as investors eye Fed minutes


The open on Wall Street was generally muted as shares struggled for direction ahead of Fed minutes publication later.

The notes from the Fed's last policy meeting is due to be released later this evening.

The benchmark Dow Jones did rise 0.09%, but the S&P 500 was down 2 points. The technology focused Nasdaq dropped five points, or 0.14% to 3,208.

Navigation devices maker Garmin was the biggest loser, down 8.2%, after it released fourth earnings and forecast full year results below analysts' estimates.

The firm is forecasting full-year profit of US$2.30 to US$2.40 per share, excluding items, while analysts on average were expecting adjusted income of US$2.82 per share, according to reports.

Life Technologies Corp was the second biggest loser, down 7.2%.

The biggest gainer was retailer Kohls Corp (KSS), which was up 2.6% to stand at US$47.70, possibly due to a note from BMO financial group.

Meanwhile, in London, the leading share index earlier reached its highest level since 2007 as it went through the 6,400 barrier but then fell back.

It is currently at 6,397. It came as Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King was outvoted in his attempt to inject life into the UK’s economy.

Minutes from the last MPC meeting showed six members outvoted King and two others, who wanted to expand the quantitative easing (QE) programme.

But Joshua Raymond, chief market strategist at City Index, says it is a “sure fire indication” that the central bank is getting closer to pumping more money into the economy.

“With 6400 being a key level, it now becomes important for the Index to consolidate above this level,” said Raymond.

“A failure to close above 6400 this week could see investors start to lock in their gains and this could trigger a corrective move.”

Goldman Sachs’s downbeat note on the precious metals sector sent miners tumbling this morning.

The heavyweight broker believes gold has reached the end of what it sees as a “12 year bull period”.

2013 could prove to be an inflection point for the gold price as US real interest rates increase alongside an accelerating US recovery, it added.

The assessment saw miners lose their shine, with Fresnillo (LON:FRES) and Antofagasta (LON: ANTO) among the biggest losers.

BHP Billiton (LON:BLT) fell to the bottom of the pile, down 2.17% on the day it was announced its CEO is to leave, making BHP the third global mining giant to replace its chief executive in the space of six months.

News of his departure coincided with a tough first half for the oil and base metals giant, with net income slumping by 58% to US$4.2bn as it saw big declines in earnings from iron ore, oil and coal due to weaker commodity prices.

RSA Insurance Group (LON:RSA) overshadowed the miners however, slumping 13.43% as it slashed its dividend by about a third.

The company, one of the big dividend payers among FTSE 100 companies, has announced a final dividend of 3.9p in respect of 2012, compared to a final divi of 5.82p the year before.

The final dividend payment for the year makes the full year divi 7.31p, down from 9.16p the year before.

The board said it expects the interim dividend in the 2013 results will be cut by a similar percentage. The market consensus forecast for the 2013 dividend had been 9.55p prior to today’s shock announcement.

Aviva (LON:AV.) shares shed 4.41% on the back of RSA’s news.

Barclays (LON:BARC) meanwhile dipped after a downgrade from Goldman Sachs, while Rexam (LON:REX) topped the index as the drinks cans maker’s profits beat analyst estimates.

Other big risers included RBS (LON:RBS), which jumped 2.14%.

Estate agent Savills (LON:SVS), along with the housebuilders, made gains on the mid cap index after Countrywide, the UK’s largest estate agent by revenues, stated its intention to relist its shares in the hope of a recovery in the UK property market.

It comes a week after housebuilder Crest Nicholson (LON:CRST) came back to the market after six years as a privately-run company.

VANE Minerals (LON:VML) raced to the summit of AIM, up around 30% after a strong fourth quarter, with revenue from its gold and silver operations in Mexico up 74% to US$2.41mln.

Range Resources (LON:RRL) shares climbed nearly 12% as it told investors that a well in Guatemala could contain 2.3mln barrels of oil reserves. Range recently acquired an interest in the project via its investment in a 19.9% stake Australian firm Citation Resources and it also has a 10% stake at project level.

Tracking them north were IPSA Group (LON:IPSA), up 16%, and Kefi Minerals (LON:KEFI), up 7.19%, with ReNeuron (LON:RENE) climbing 6.75%.

Coloured gemstone specialist Gemfields (LON:GEM) rose 2.44% after unveiling Hollywood A-lister Mila Kunis as its new brand ambassador, while gold junior Stratex International (LON:STI) shone 5.41% higher after taking its first steps into Liberia by snapping up an option on a property close to the New Liberty discovery.

Biome Technologies (LON:BIOM) lost 13%, while Obtala Resources (LON:OBT) drifted 13.4% lower after it raised £2mln when it issued new equity.


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July 31 2012

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