FTSE 100 clocks up 50 point gain despite strength of sterling

The dollar's revival did not last long, and although a weak dollar is regarded as being detrimental to the FTSE, the top-shares index still managed a 50 point gain

Man lighting cigar with a dollar bill
US GDP figures put paid to the dollar's revival
  • FTSE 100 holding good gains

  • US Q4 GDP misses forecasts 

  • UK growth stats beat estimates

  • Barclays and Lloyds up after Deutsche note

The FTSE 100 closed adjacent to its intra-day high with a dozen of its constituents notching up gains in excess of two per cent.

The FTSE 100 closed at 7,666, up 50 points, despite sterling rising once more against the dollar, which is regarded as bad news for the plethora of big dollar earners among the UK's blue-chip fraternity.

15.15: Footsie holding on to gains despite dollar's strength evaporating

FTSE 100 is still higher with less than two hours before the close, while Wall Street shares are also higher.

It comes after US fourth quarter GDP figures  missed expectations, while UK growth figures surpassed them,.

The Dow Jones is up over 66 points at the time of writing, while the S&P 500 is ahead by almost 11.

Footsie is up over 38 points at 7,653 at the time of writing.

On the US growth stats, Jacob Deppe, head of trading at online trading platform, Infinox, said: "Today’s disappointing undershoot doesn’t change the fact that the US economy is still booming.

"But we will have to wait a little longer before growth hits the White House’s target of 3%, even if that level should be achieved by the end of 2018.

“Wall Street is still at a record high, consumer confidence appears to be returning, unemployment is at historic lows and wages are rising faster than inflation. So there is plenty to be positive about."

In companies, investment firm HICL Infrastructure Company Ltd (LON:HICL) said Carillion PLC’s (LON:CLLN) collapse has triggered loan agreement defaults at most of the projects it shares with the contractor.

Carillion went into liquidation after the construction firm failed to secure a rescue deal in talks with lenders and the government, casting uncertainty over many of its contracts.  HICL shares shed 5.15% to 139.93p.

Royal Mail Group PLC (LON:RMG) shares were flat mid-afternoon at 469p as the firm and the Communications Workers Union (CWU) said that negotiators had finalised the details of a proposed agreement to end a row over plans to replace the mail delivery firm's defined benefit pension scheme.

Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY), up 0.21% and Barclays PLC (LON:BARC), up 0.12% - both gained ground as analysts at Deutsche Bank said both firms were likely to increase capital returns in 2018 and could use share buybacks to boost earnings.

Deutsche retained its ‘buy’ rating on Lloyds and Barclays, saying it prefers the large UK domestic banks to challenger banks such as CYBG PLC (LON:CYBG).

1.30pm: Footsie holds gains

FTSE 100 was holding gains at the mid-session point, as it emerged the US economy grew 2.6% in the fourth quarter last year.

The figure was below what economists had been expecting on Wall Street - at 3%  - but still showed the strength of the economy .

Denis de Jong at UFX.com said Trump's fourth quarter targets had fallen short but the US was "still on a sound financial footing".

"The Trump administration had targeted 3% growth but despite the latest figures falling below expectations, the President still has reasons to be bullish," he said.

But he added: "Although the markets remain resilient, Trump’s “America First” message that he is asserting in Davos could push potential trading partners away."

Speaking in Davos, President Trump earlier spoke of a  "strong and prosperous" USA, where increasingly more jobs had been created.

"Im here to deliver a simple message - There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States. America is open for business, and we are competitive once again," he told the forum.

Back in London, takeaway app Just Eat (LON:JE.)  was the biggest gainer on Footsie, up 3.37% to 828p, while big cap miners lagged.

Randgold Resources (LON:RRS) was down  1.5% while Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) was off 1.31%.

FTSE 100 is up around 31 points, or 0.41%, at the time of writing.

12.15pm: US futures point higher..

FTSE 100 is holding its own ahead of the Wall Street start, where futures point higher, and the US growth figures are in the frame.

The UK premier share index is up around 30 points at 7,646.

Across the pond, there was a flurry of quarterly earnings yesterday, with the Dow Jones and S&P500 at new record closes and today futures see benchmarks continuing north.

Dow futures are up 62 points; S&P 500 futures are ahead by nine points and Nasdaq futures are up over 35.

US GDP data is set for release at 8.30am EST following the UK stats earlier, and is sure to be closely watched. President Trump is also due to make a speech at the World Economic Forum.

US output is expected to be at or near 3%, which, say commentators, would be a strong finish to the eighth calendar year of economic expansion.

The US economy hasn’t posted three consecutive quarters of at least 3% growth since the nine-month period ending in early 2005, during the last housing boom.


11am: easyJet flies higher

Budget carrier easyJet (LON:EZJ) was top riser on Footsie, up 2.09% to 1,686p after heavyweight broker Deutsche Bank raised the price target on the shares to 1, 560p from 1,450p.

Utilities Severn Trent PLC (LON:SVT)  shed 0.40% to 2,002p and Pennon Group (LON:PNN) eased 0.29% to 724.88p .

It came after Goldman Sachs started coverage on UK water stocks in a cautious note pointing out that the upcoming regulatory review brings risks to returns for the sector.

Spectris plc (LON:SXS) shares added 1.17% to 2,602p as it completed the acquisition of drug development group Concept Life Sciences from Equistone Partners Europe and company management for £163mln.

MaYAir Group plc (LON:MAYA) added over 22% to 117.50p  after it agreed to a 120p per share cash takeover offer from Poly Glorious Investment Company Limited which values the air filtration equipment and clean air solutions group at £50.35mln.

Poly Glorious is a subsidiary of T&U Investment, a private limited company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, which is owned by Jiang Li.

FTSE 100 is up around 43 points at 7,659. FTSE 250 is also over 62 points ahead at 20,583.


10.20am: Interest rates in focus..

Ben Brettell,  economist at broker Hargreaves Lansdown, says the overall picture on the UK economy is still confusing and considers what today's figures may mean for interest rate rises.

"Growth still looks lacklustre – and somewhat unevenly distributed – with the year-on-year figure of 1.5% the weakest since the first quarter of 2013," he says, though added that the economy had certainly performed much better than many feared in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

"The Bank’s rate-setting committee will announce its latest decision on 8 February. With growth anaemic, I can’t see any rush to raise rates.

"Last year’s quarter point move seems like a tacit admission that the cut to 0.25% was unnecessary in the first place, rather than the start of a sustained upwards trend. I’d be somewhat surprised if we saw more than one rate rise this year, probably in the autumn."

10am: FTSE 100 boosted by UK growth figures.

FTSE 100 is climbing in morning trade as the market was cheered by positive UK growth data.

The GDP (gross domestic product), the value of all goods and services, surprised positively, with growth in GDP for the fourth quarter coming in slightly above expectations at 0.5%.

Economists and analysts had forecast growth of 0.4% in the quarter.

The dominant services sector grew by 0.6%. Industrial production grew 0.6%, and within that figure was an especially strong showing from manufacturing, which grew output by 1.3%.

However,  construction shrank again, making it three consecutive quarters of contraction.

The blue-chip index is up over 28 points at the time of writing at 7,643, while the pound is up strongly against the US dollar - almost 1% and also up 30% against the Euro.

James Hughes, market analyst at Axitrader, said: "On the back of the numbers we have seen a strong move in Sterling with GBPUSD jumping to retest try and retest 1.4300.

"The strong reading will be seen as positive news for Britain as it still tries to fight off negativity created by the Brexit negotiations.

"Although we still have no idea what post Brexit Britain will look like, the numbers will give Theresa May a little more ammunition, and give others the feeling that she is not just steering a sinking ship into the abyss.

"The services sector was a big boost for the economy in the fourth quarter, and the stronger performance here will lead many to believe we could still outperform growth expectations for 2018."

Jasper Lawler, at London Capital Group, added: "(Mark) ..Carney sees Brexit uncertainty as the reason growth in other developed countries is outpacing the UK.

"We disagree; growth is just cyclical. The UK had the fastest pace of growth in the G7 and has just slipped down the pecking order as other economies catch up. If anything Brexit, via the inflationary impact of the drop in the British pound has exposed the UK economy’s over-reliance on consumer spending."

Away from the Nutella stampedes in French supermarkets, in stock markets, the top gainer on Footsie was budget carrier easyJet (LON:EZJ), which added 2.21% to 1,687.5p, after a Deutsche Bank upgrade.

In smaller caps, Scientific Digital Imaging PLC (LON:SDI) was a notable riser in early deals as the medtech and healthcare group posted a 106% increase in pre-tax profit in its latest half year, while revenues increased 34%.

Shares in the company added over 13% to 29.48p.

8.30am: Footsie opens higher

The FTSE 100 opened 15 points higher at 7,631.16, taking its cue from Wall Street where the Dow hit another record high.

The World Economic Summit in Davos – which is fast becoming the Big Brother for plutocrats and politicians – enters its final day.

And for the first time in two decades, an American president will address the great and the good attending the swish Swiss ski resort. At this point it is difficult to guess just what Donald Trump will say.

Turning to the London market, the top riser was National Grid Group (LON:NG.) after Goldman Sachs upgraded, although it remains lukewarm on shares in the owner of the UK’s electricity and gas network with its ‘neutral’ rating.

National Grid was up 1.4% on the back of the note in which Goldman initiated coverage on a whole host of utility stocks, including Pennon (LON:PNN), Severn Trent (LON:SVT), and United Utilities (LON:UU).

Proactive news headlines:

ReNeuron Group Plc (LON:RENE) said positive long-term data on its CTX cell therapy for stroke was presented at a US conference. Professor Keith Muir, of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, and Principal Investigator for ReNeuron’s PISCES II study, told the audience upper limb functional recovery was “durable and maintained” out to 12 months post-treatment.

Fuel cell specialist AFC Energy plc (LON:AFC) has started a search for a new chief financial officer as Richard Tuffill will be leaving at the end of March this year for personal reasons. "Richard has provided valuable support to AFC Energy since joining and has strengthened the financial, reporting and internal controls at the company with a continued strong emphasis on cash preservation and governance," the company said in a brief statement.

Amur Minerals Corp (LON:AMC) has started a new resource assessment process for the Kun Manie project, in Russia’s Far East, and it told investors to expect a substantial upgrade from last February’s mineral resource estimate. Last year’s estimate was based on deposits with a total strike length of 1.4 kilometres, whereas, following new data from the 2017 drill campaign the new assessment will estimate resources across an expanded 3.6 kilometres.

Akers Biosciences, Inc. (LONL:AKR) (NASDAQ:AKER), the developer of rapid health information technologies, has received proceeds of US$525,000 from a further exercise by warrant holders over an aggregate 2.8mln shares at an exercise price of US$0.1875 per share.

6.45am: Footsie called firmly higher 

FTSE 100 is called to open firmly higher after the Dow Jones finished at a new high yesterday and growth data from the UK and US comes into view as well as a speech from President Trump.

On Wall Street, the Dow added 140 points to 26,392 on Thursday as the market cheered a strong set of corporate earnings reports  and the S&P 500 also reached a fresh record, though the Nasdaq lost ground a tad.

Around 78% of S&P 500 companies have topped expectations in their quarterlies, it was reported.

The Footsie closed 27 points lower yesterday at 7,615 but spreadbetters reckon it will start 25 points ahead of that level on Friday.

The markets were mixed in  Asia overnight, with the Nikkei 225 shedding 52 points to 23,620 and the Shanghai Composite Index in China up over 14 at 3,562.

In Japan, the major exporters traded mixed as the US dollar held gains against the yen, but financial stocks in Tokyo fell.

There's not much in the corporate diary today, but President Trump's speech at the world economic forum in Davos could be a market mover.

Michael Hewson, at CMC Markets, wonders whether the implementation of US tariffs on steel and washing machines this week were "merely the opening gambit in a new confrontational approach around trade, or merely a ploy to generate a different approach to trade relationships".   

Economic growth or the lack of it will certainly be a dominant theme, not least as preliminary fourth quarter growth readings due for both the UK and the US economies.

Initial indications are expected to show that the UK economy grew 0.4% in the quarter with services expected to contribute most of the expansion, though manufacturing is also expected to put in a decent performance.

In the US, a modest slowdown is expected from the strong numbers seen in the third quarter.

The UK economy has proved to be resilient in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum in June 2016, despite worries over higher inflation impacting consumers.

However, it was the only major G7 economy to experience a downgrade in growth outlook in the latest issue of the World Economic Outlook from the International Monetary Fund published last Monday.

The IMF now expects the UK economy to grow by 1.5% year-on-year  in both 2018 and 2019, down 0.1% from the previous 2019 forecast.

Significant events expected on Friday January 26:

AGMs: Treatt PLC (LON:TET), URA Holdings PLC (LON:URA)

Economic data: UK GDP; US GDP; US durable goods orders

Around the markets:

  • Sterling: US$1.4205, up 0.42%
  • Gold: US$1,351.60 an ounce, down 0.79%
  • Brent crude: US$65.41 a barrel, down 0.15%

City headlines:

  • Kier shares jump 15% as it seeks to distance itself from Carillion fall-out- Telegraph
  • Restaurant Group moves to accelerate shift to pubs as sales drop again- Telegraph
  • Freeport results shine, aided by higher metal prices- FT
  • JPMorgan to launch fixed-income ETFs on London market - FT
  • NY subway awards Kawasaki Heavy contract worth up to $3.7 billion- FT
  • Activist investor White Tale quits Clariant campaign - FT
  • Tencent buys stake in film producer Skydance Media - FT
  • Starbucks drops as sales miss the mark - FT
  • Walmart takes on Amazon’s e-book dominance with Japanese tie-up - FT
  • Fall in mortgage approvals raises fears of housing market slump - The Times
  • Aurora’s new joint venture to make biggest marijuana maker - The Times
  • Hornby fails to deliver model Christmas- The Times
  • Brexit: JPMorgan could cut more than 4,000 U.K. jobs, says Chief Executive Jamie Dimon - Independent

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