By This Is Money Reporters
17.30 (CLOSE): B&Q owner Kingfisher and budget airline easyJet set a blistering pace on the FTSE 100 Index today as the London market staged an impressive bounce back.
Financial updates saw Kingfisher shares leap 6 per cent ahead while easyJet rose 4 per cent amid a wider rebound on the top flight, up 84.5 points to 6604.9 as it regained losses seen yesterday due to fears of Russian sanctions and weak manufacturing data in China and the eurozone.
Mining stocks were lifted amid expectations that China might announce stimulus measures on the back of the latest disappointing figures.
Trade gain: B&Q’s domestic sales were flat at 3.7billion in a tougher retail market, the growth instead reflected a strong showing from its Screwfix trade supply division
A strong start to trading on Wall Street helped fuel the rebound, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly 80 points higher at the time of close in London.
Sentiment was boosted after a closely-followed gauge of US consumer confidence beat expectations.
In currency markets, the pound held firm at 1.65 US dollars and 1.20 euros.
The euro had weakened earlier in the session after European policymakers signalled the potential for further monetary easing to avoid deflation in the euro zone.
Among stocks in London, Kingfisher led gains after the DIY group announced plans to return 200 million to shareholders in the current financial year.
The move came as the company met City expectations with a 4 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to 744 million and also lifted its dividend by nearly 5 per cent.
Shares surged 24.3p higher to 430.8p.
Airline stock easyJet continued its impressive performance in the FTSE 100 after it narrowed its guidance for losses in the seasonally quieter first half of its financial year.
The company now expects a deficit of 55million to 65 million, compared with guidance in January of 70 million to 90 million and losses of 61million a year ago.
Shares, which have more than doubled since the start of 2013, were up by another 60p to 1692p.
The rally in the mining sector saw Anglo American rise 4% or 58p to 1498p and Rio Tinto improve 94p to 3283p.
But Royal Mail shares suffered after the group’s announcement that it is planning up to 1,600 job cuts fuelled fears of strike action by unions.
Shares were 18.5p lower at 565.5p, even though the delivery firm said current trading has been in line with expectations.
Lloyds Banking Group – up 0.6p to 79.1p – was also in the spotlight after the Government’s announcement after market close that it will sell down its stake further by selling another chunk to institutional investors, raising around 4.2billion for the taxpayer based on today’s closing price.
The move will reduce the Government’s stake to 25 per cent from 33 per cent currently.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Kingfisher up 24.3p to 430.8p, SABMiller off 143p at 2978p, Anglo American 58p stronger at 1498p and easyJet 60p higher at 1692p.
The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Carnival down 113p to 2343p, Royal Mail off 18.5p to 565.5p, BSkyB 14p lower at 927.5p and Morrisons 1.9p weaker at 210.3p.
16.15: The Footsie maintained its bounce back following yesterday’s falls in late afternoon trade supported by some positive company updates from the likes of easyJet and early gains by US stocks.
With just a quarter hour of trading to go, the FTSE 100 index was up 73.8 points at 6,594.9, just below the session high of 6,603.52.
Early trade in New York saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average take on 43.5 points at 16,320.3 as a strong reading on US consumer confidence boosted optimism about economic conditions.
Take off: easyJet shares were strong gainers on the FTSE 100 after narrowing its first half losses guidance
Consumer confidence in March climbed by more than expected to its highest level since January 2008.
The report was the latest in a string of positive reads on the economy that supported theories that softness early this year was related to bad weather and not weakening fundamentals.
12:30: B&Q owner Kingfisher and budget airline easyJet are on the front foot today as London’s FTSE 100 Index bounced back from a poor start to the week.
Financial updates from the pair meant they set a blistering pace at the top of the risers board – up by 6 per cent for Kingfisher and 5 per cent for easyJet.
Across the wider market, the FTSE 100 Index is up 75.5 points at 6595.5, putting back losses seen on Monday due to fears of Russian sanctions and weak manufacturing data in China and the eurozone.
Mining stocks have been lifted amid expectations that China might announce stimulus measures on the back of the latest disappointing figures.
Anglo American is up 3 per cent, or 43.25p, to 1,483.25p and BHP Billiton has improved 34.5p to 1,836.5p.
Airline stock easyJet continues its impressive performance in the FTSE 100 after it narrowed its guidance for losses in the seasonally quieter first half of its financial year.
The company now expects a deficit of 55million to 65million, compared with guidance in January of 70million to 90million and losses of 61million a year ago.
Shares, which have more than doubled since the start of 2013, are up by another 74p to 1706p.
Easyjet has been joined on the risers board by Kingfisher after the DIY chain announced plans to return 200million to shareholders in the current financial year.
The move came as the company met City expectations with a 4 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to 744million and also lifted its dividend by nearly 5 per cent. Shares are 23.1p higher at 429.4p.
Plumb Center owner Wolseley had a similar message for shareholders as it reported a 9 per cent rise in trading profits from ongoing businesses to 360million in the half-year to January 31.
It said there had been a good performance in the UK and United States but this was offset by headwinds in continental Europe.
A rebasing of its dividend to reflect ‘strong and sustainable cash flows’ meant a 25 per cent rise in the pay-out to shareholders and caused the stock to rise 120.5p to 3424.5p.
Elsewhere in the sector, rival Travis Perkins rose 57.5p to 1859.5p.
Royal Mail shares top the fallers board after its announcement that it is planning up to 1,600 job cuts fuelled fears of strike action by unions. Shares are 9.25p lower at 574.75p, even though the delivery firm said current trading has been in line with expectations.
09.20: Low-cost airline easyJet set the pace in the FTSE 100 Index today as London shares bounced back from a poor start to the week.
As the morning session progressed, the FTSE 100 index notched up a 70.4 point gain to 6,590.8, recouping losses made on Monday due to fears over the situation in Ukraine and weak manufacturing data in China and the eurozone.
Markus Huber, senior sales trader/senior analyst at Peregrine & Black said: ‘Lending some support to stocks is encouraging news that last night Russian foreign minister Lavrov has met his Ukrainian counterpart for talks.
‘Until yesterday Russia had refused any direct communication with the new Ukrainian government as they are considering them as having staged an ‘illegal’ coup to replace the former prime minister.
‘Although still early and nothing has been achieved or agreed on yet but many consider these talks as an important first step towards a de-escalation of the current situation,’ he said.
In London, easyJet continued its impressive performance in the top flight after it narrowed its guidance for losses in the seasonally quieter first half of its financial year.
The airline now expects a deficit of 55million to 65million, rather than as much as 90million. The blue chip stock rose 78p to 1,710p, extending its gains in the year so far to 11 per cent.
Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said: ‘easyJet has firmly reassured investors, raising its guidance. Management initiatives, in particular allocated seating have contributed, whilst the weather, given reduced de-icing costs, has also played its part.
‘The introduction of new routes under Carolyn McCall’s leadership, along with the courting of business customers, has added to group momentum, whilst a concentration on customer service has helped set it apart from rivals.’
Easyjet was joined on the FTSE 100 leader board by B&Q owner Kingfisher after it announced plans to return 200million to shareholders in the current financial year.
The move came as the company met City expectations with a 4 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to 744 million. Kingfisher shares were 13.75p higher at 420.25p.
But Royal Mail shares topped the blue chip fallers board after an announcement that it is planning up to 1,600 job cuts raised the threat of strike action by unions. Royal Mail shares – which were floated last October by the government at 330p – were 11.25p lower at 572.75p.
08.30: The FTSE 100 has opened up 26.7 points at 6,547.1, mirroring a late recovery on Wall Street and supported by speculation of fresh economic stimulus from China.
The odds of China intervening to help its sluggish economy were seen as narrowing following a slew of data that points to the weakest growth since the global financial crisis.
Investors are still closely monitoring the intentions of Russia, which was warned by US president Barack Obama and major allies that it faced damaging economic sanctions if president Vladimir Putin takes further action to destabilise Ukraine following the seizure of Crimea.
Economy watch: Poor data out of China has sparked speculation that officials could inject more stimulus
The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 trimmed losses in late trade yesterday, showing lingering investor appetite for shares and setting up European indices for a small rebound.
However, gains are likely to be kept in check by expectations of more weak data from Germany.
Figures released yesterday suggested German growth has slowed from February’s 33-month high, and fuelled concern that today’s closely watched Ifo business morale index would also disappoint.
The FTSE 100 closed 36.78 points lower at 6,520.39 yesterday on concerns about the situation in Ukraine and a slowdown in Chinese growth, while energy providers were hit by worries they may be forced to break up their businesses.
Michael Hewson of CMC Markets said: ‘Expectations about some form of imminent monetary stimulus from China have been rising, and this appears to be helping boost sentiment, but these are likely to be misplaced given the Chinese authorities’ determination to make their banks more circumspect in their lending practices.
‘In the last few days the overall direction for European markets has been somewhat difficult to predict with Europe’s core indices well off their 2014 highs.’
He added: ‘Investor sentiment is being pulled all over the place as markets wrestle with a prospective improvement in European economic data against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, as well as fears of a slowdown in China, at the same time as the US Federal Reserve continues to dial back its stimulus.’
Stocks to watch today include:
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND: The bank has had contact with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group regarding the possible sale of its US retail business Citizens, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has also considered a bid, people with knowledge of the matter said.
EASYJET: The budget airline upgraded its first-half outlook, saying it now expected a loss similar to last year’s level as it kept a lid on costs.
ROYAL MAIL GROUP: The postal operator said it would cut around 1,300 operational and head office jobs in order to deliver annualised savings of 50million.
KINGFISHER: The home improvements retailer said it would return about 200million to shareholders in the current year as it met forecasts with a 4.1 per cent rise in 2013-14 profit.
AVIVA: The insurer could pay its chief executive Mark Wilson up to 5.3million for his first year in the job, which he took on after his predecessor was ousted in a shareholder rebellion.
Separately, the insurer agreed to sell its Turkish unit Aviva Sigorta to venture fund EMF Capital Partners, the Turkish company said.
MARKS & SPENCER: The retailer said that two of its most experienced directors would leave the business this summer.
Both Darrell Stein and Clem Constantine, directors of IT and property respectively, have been with M&S since 2006, according to the company’s website.
RSA: The troubled insurer set out its plans for a fully underwritten rights issue to raise 773million to restore its capital position.
CENTRICA: The utility firm has agreed to buy the gas and electricity supply arm and a gas-fired power plant from Ireland’s state-owned Bord Gais Eireann for €1.1billion.