- FTSE closes flat at 6,605.30
- Insurance stocks recover
- US 'core' durable goods orders fall
techMARK 2,782.65 +0.32%
FTSE 100 6,605.30 +0.01%
FTSE 250 16,252.92 +0.62%
It was a flat finish for the top tier index on Wednesday as investors balanced mixed US data, increased prospects of monetary easing in Europe and China, news out from Lloyds and the recovery of the insurance sector.
The FTSE 100 finished up 0.41 points at 6,605.30, a gain of 48.13 on the week so far.
There was considerable speculation that the People's Bank of China could introduce some form of stimulus into financial markets to prevent an economic slowdown, while comments from Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann were also lifting hopes that the European Central Bank could ease policy further to fight falling deflation in the Eurozone. He said that quantitative easing was "not out of the question".
There was also a notable lack of updates coming out from Russia and Ukraine throughout much of today's session, although towards the close a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry told Fox News the recent movements amongst Russian troops was "worrying", although he stressed there was insufficient information to back up claims troop numbers had been increased.
US 'core' durable goods orders decline in February
Orders for durable goods jumped by 2.2% in February to a seasonally adjusted $229.4bn, according to data from the Commerce Department, surprising analysts who had expected a rise of just 0.8%.
However, the positive surprise was mainly as a result of large increases in the volatile transportation sector. Excluding this, core durable goods orders rose by a more modest 0.2%, lower than the 0.3% gain expected by the market.
Standard Life rises on Ignis deal
Standard Life was making decent gains after agreeing on a deal with Phoenix Group to sell the latter's Ignis Asset Management division. Standard Life said the £390m acquisition will enhance earnings from the first full year of ownership. Hargreaves Lansdown also delivered a strong performance.
RSA is holding near the top of the leaderboard, part of the buying interest may be attributable to reports which have surfaced that it is looking for a buyer for its Lithuanian unit. Speculation puts the price tag at €100m.
Electricity provider SSE was in demand after unveiling plans to complete major disposals, freeze its household energy prices until 2016 and cut 500 jobs, as it confirmed results for 2013 would be broadly in line with expectations. Sector peer Centrica slumped on the news.
Banking stocks were also heavy fallers today with state-backed lender Lloyds leading the decline after the government sold another tranche of its stake. The disposal was made at a price of 75.5p per share, compared with last night's closing price of 79.11p.
On the second tier, Partnership Assurance rose strongly today as the annuity provider climbed alongside others in the sector following last week's major sell-off which came on the back of the government's decision to bin compulsory annuities for pensioners.
However, oil and gas company Enquest slumped after it revealed the realised average price per barrel of oil sold last year decreased 1.7% to $109.7 and said profit from operations before tax and net finance costs dropped 7.5% to $374.8m, hit by a sharp rise in costs.
Looking ahead to tomorrow
On tomorrow's agenda is a report on UK retail sales which is expected to show a 2.9% year-on-year increase in February following a 4.8% rise a month earlier.
In the US, gross domestic product will be in focus and is tipped to register an annualised 2.7% growth in the fourth quarter, up from 2.4% the previous quarter.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Standard Life (SL.) 400.00p +7.01%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,481.00p +5.33%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 87.80p +3.89%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 387.30p +3.72%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,425.00p +3.41%
William Hill (WMH) 348.70p +2.77%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 214.80p +2.53%
Meggitt (MGGT) 480.50p +2.10%
Experian (EXPN) 1,074.00p +1.90%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 834.00p +1.89%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 75.20p -4.94%
Centrica (CNA) 323.10p -2.83%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,608.00p -2.17%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,077.00p -2.00%
Barclays (BARC) 233.30p -1.54%
BT Group (BT.A) 378.30p -1.48%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,856.00p -1.43%
SABMiller (SAB) 2,938.00p -1.34%
Royal Mail (RMG) 558.00p -1.33%
Prudential (PRU) 1,314.00p -1.31%
FTSE 250 - Risers
888 Holdings (888) 158.50p +10.68%
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 134.00p +7.63%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 449.20p +4.90%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 150.30p +4.81%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 741.50p +4.44%
FirstGroup (FGP) 144.40p +4.11%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 167.10p +3.85%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 616.50p +3.70%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 181.40p +3.54%
Oxford Instruments (OXIG) 1,314.00p +3.30%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
EnQuest (ENQ) 127.40p -11.65%
NMC Health (NMC) 505.00p -4.72%
Man Group (EMG) 99.05p -3.83%
Ted Baker (TED) 2,241.00p -3.41%
Infinis Energy (INFI) 236.00p -3.28%
Xaar (XAR) 831.50p -2.81%
ITE Group (ITE) 196.70p -2.62%
SEGRO (SGRO) 331.80p -2.44%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,240.00p -2.21%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,775.00p -2.13%