LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE ends 10.12 points higher at 6,780.03
– US GDP misses expectations
– Focus very much of FOMC meeting statement

techMARK 2,780.50 -0.39%
FTSE 100 6,780.03 +0.15%
FTSE 250 15,817.20 -0.50%

UK indices ended today’s session slightly higher following a raft of corporate announcements, mixed data from abroad as well as a number of stocks going ex-dividend.

The FTSE 100 closed 10.12 points higher at 6,780.03.

Gains were notably limited by nervousness ahead of this evening’s policy decision by the US Federal Reserve, which has prompted many to scale back risk.

The Federal Open Market Committee began its two-day policy meeting yesterday and is widely expected to continue tapering its asset purchase programme by $ 10bn each meeting. This will bring the monthly stock of bond buying down from $ 55bn to $ 45bn.

This afternoon’s focus was already on the US, as investors digested the latest gross domestic product (GDP) reading, which came in significantly below expectations.

GDP expanded at a 0.1% annualised clip during the first three months of the year according to the Commerce Department. The consensus estimate had been for a rise of 1.1%.

It followed an expansion of 2.6% in the last quarter of 2013 and 1.9% over all of last year.

Meanwhile, the MNI Chicago purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for April printed at 63 points, accelerating sharply from last month’s level of 55.9, compared to an expected reading of 57.

Eurozone inflation picks up but misses consensus

Eurozone inflation rose less than expected in April, according to the flash estimate published by Eurostat today.

The annual rate of consumer price inflation rose to 0.7% this month after prices rose by 0.5% in March. However, this compared to the consensus estimate for a 0.8% rise.

Nevertheless, some economists had said that the figure could miss forecasts after data on Tuesday showed that German inflation was lower than expected.

Back in the UK, it was estimated by the Office for National Statistics that around 1.4m people were employed on zero-hour contracts in January and February.

That compared to the figure of 583,000 – equal to 2% of the UK workforce – estimated for the period between October and December last year. The statistics also showed that those on zero-hour contracts, which do not guarantee a minimum number of working hours, were also employed in at least one other job.

Busy day for corporate earnings

Housebuilder Barratt Developments (LSE: BDEV.L – news) clawed back yesterday’s losses, claiming its place in the top spot after Deutsche Bank (Xetra: DBK.DE – news) named it as one of its top picks.

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell (Xetra: R6C1.DE – news) rose strongly as first-quarter underlying earnings fell by 3% but beat expectations. Bottom-line earnings, however, were hit by £2.9bn of impairments in its Downstream division.

Meanwhile, insurance group Admiral fell after going ex-dividend, along with a number of others including Tesco (Xetra: TCO.DE – news) , Weir and Reed Elsevier (Frankfurt: RDEB.F – news) .

The strength of sterling had a big impact on results at GlaxoSmithKline (Other OTC: GLAXF – news) (GSK) in the first quarter, while sales fell short of analysts’ expectations due to weakness in the US market, prompting shares to slide. Core (Frankfurt: LJ1.F – news) turnover during the first three months of the year dropped by 10% on a reported basis to £5.61bn, with sales dampened by a stronger pound against the dollar, euro, yen and a range of emerging market currencies.

On the second tier, shares in Heritage Oil (Other OTC: HGOCF – news) surged today after the company announced that it had received a takeover offer from Energy Investments Global, part of Qatar’s Al Mirqab Capital. The company also reported its full-year results which unveiled that profits doubled in 2013 on the back of record production from its flagship OML 30 lock in Nigeria.

Ladbrokes (LSE: LAD.L – news) also climbed after saying it would maintain its dividend payment, despite posting a decline in its first-quarter operating profit. The confirmantion underlines the bookmaker’s belief it will return to growth in the second half of the year.

Strong performances in Asia and its casino business drove total quarterly revenues higher at Playtech (LSE: PTEC.L – news) in the first three months of 2014, lifting shares higher. The online gaming software supplier said a group revenue increase of 17.4% from €87.5m to €102.7m was largely thanks to a quarterly Casino (Paris: FR0000125585 – news) revenue rose 25.6% from €44.1m to €55.4m.

Meanwhile, technology group CSR (LSE: CSR.L – news) shares fell sharply after its first-quarter revenue fell 24% to $ 180.8m.

Home Retail (Other OTC: HMRLF – news) failed to impress despite reporting a return to annual sales and profit growth thanks to like-for-like improvements at both Argos and Homebase. However, including exceptional items, statutory pre-tax profits fell 41.1% mainly due to restructuring charges at Argos and a payment protection insurance provision.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 369.50p +5.18%
Royal Dutch Shell ‘B’ (RDSB) 2,520.00p +3.66%
Shire Plc (LSE: SHP.L – news) (SHP) 3,378.00p +3.52%
WPP (Frankfurt: 0WP.F – news) (WPP (Other OTC: WPPGF – news) ) 1,274.00p +3.07%
Royal Dutch Shell ‘A’ (RDSA) 2,347.00p +2.94%
Capita (Frankfurt: A0MZ15 – news) (CPI (Other OTC: CPICQ – news) ) 1,085.00p +2.84%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,050.00p +2.84%
Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L – news) (AAL) 1,582.00p +2.56%
William Hill (Other OTC: WIMHF – news) (WMH) 354.70p +2.16%
Smiths Group (Other OTC: SMGKF – news) (SMIN) 1,335.00p +1.91%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Tesco (Frankfurt: TS3.F – news) (TSCO) 292.95p -3.41%
Admiral Group (LSE: ADM.L – news) (ADM) 1,398.00p -3.05%
British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS.L – news) (BATS) 3,417.00p -2.01%
GlaxoSmithKline (Frankfurt: GS7.F – news) (GSK) 1,632.00p -2.01%
ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L – news) (ARM) 891.50p -1.93%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,557.00p -1.84%
Standard Chartered (HKSE: 2888.HK – news) (STAN) 1,281.50p -1.80%
Hammerson (HMSO) 570.50p -1.64%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,637.00p -1.56%
Centrica (Frankfurt: CENB.F – news) (CNA (SES: E2:5GC.SI – news) ) 330.00p -1.49%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Heritage Oil (HOIL) 315.20p +23.32%
Aveva Group (Other OTC: AVEVF – news) (AVV) 2,108.00p +7.83%
Ladbrokes (Frankfurt: LADA.F – news) (LAD) 153.30p +6.90%
Ophir Energy (Other OTC: OPGYF – news) (OPHR) 263.60p +4.94%
Playtech (Frankfurt: PL8.F – news) (PTEC) 667.00p +4.46%
Soco International (LSE: SIA.L – news) (SIA (SES: C6L.SI – news) ) 432.10p +3.25%
Bellway (BWY) 1,439.00p +2.86%
Afren (Berlin: A2J.BE – news) (AFR) 157.50p +2.74%
Henderson Group (LSE: HGG.L – news) (HGG) 250.80p +2.70%
Taylor Wimpey (LSE: TW.L – news) (TW.) 105.10p +2.44%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
CSR (Frankfurt: GQY.F – news) (CSR) 574.50p -10.44%
Hansteen Holdings (LSE: HSTN.L – news) (HSTN) 102.90p -4.72%
IP Group (LSE: IPO.L – news) (IPO) 172.00p -4.44%
Spirent Communications (Other OTC: SPMYY – news) (SPT (Taiwan OTC: 8431.TWO – news) ) 95.15p -4.18%
Oxford Instruments (LSE: OXIG.L – news) (OXIG) 1,289.00p -4.16%
Hunting (HTG) 846.50p -3.97%
SIG (Frankfurt: QIG.F – news) (SHI) 191.50p -3.82%
Polymetal International (POLY) 566.00p -3.74%
Fisher (James) & Sons (FSJ) 1,291.00p -3.73%
Xaar (XAR) 789.00p -3.72%