- Focus on BoE and ECB decision
- Aviva leads risers
- US jobless numbers come in below consensus
techMARK 2,887.46 -0.40%
FTSE 100 6,788.49 +0.19%
FTSE 250 16,671.75 +0.35%
UK stocks ended the day on a positive note, as investors digested central bank decisions from the Bank of England (BoE) and European Central Bank (ECB) amid a busy earnings session and several data releases from the US.
The FTSE 100 closed 13.07 points higher at 6,788.49.
Chris Beauchamp, Market Analyst at IG, said: "The traditional sleepiness ahead of non-farm payrolls was very much present in markets today, with the FTSE continuing to display heightened skittishness around the 6,800 level that has held such a fascination so far this week.
"With little change signalled from the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, the market is now looking towards tomorrow's US job numbers to provide some much-needed excitement."
The ongoing crisis in Ukraine continued to act as a backdrop for markets today as European Union leaders met for emergency talks to decide on their response to Russia's increased military presence in the Crimea region.
BoE keeps interest rates and QE unchanged
Policymakers at the BoE voted to keep monetary policy on hold at this month's meeting, marking the fifth anniversary of record-low interest rates.
As was widely expected by economists, the Bank Rate was maintained at 0.5%, where it has stood since March 2009. The stock of asset purchases was also left unchanged at £375bn.
"We very much doubt that rates will be at current levels in another five years," said Analyst Philip Shaw from Investec. "Even so, there has been nothing in the recent pattern of data to suggest that policy will need to be tightened promptly and we still consider the chances of a hike this year to be in the region of one in three," he said.
UK house prices rose by 2.4 in February, Halifax says
UK house prices rose by 2.4% in February, the 11th consecutive increase in a year, according to mortgage lender Halifax.
It takes the average price 10% below the pre-financial crisis August 2007 peak.
Quarter-on-quarter, prices over the past three months gained 2.1%, keeping up the steady pace of rises of between 1.8% and 2.2% seen over the last nine months.
ECB's Draghi stands by policy decision
ECB President Mario Draghi on Thursday defended his decision to hold policy following calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to take action. The monetary authority today announced it would keep the benchmark interest rate at 0.25% despite the IMF suggesting it should cut it to address low inflation.
The IMF had also urged the ECB to either inject more liquidity into the banking system via its Long-Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO) or start public and private asset purchases.
Large drop in unemployment claims
Initial weekly US unemployment claims dropped by 26,000 to 323,000, well below the consensus forecast for a fall to 335,000.
In other US data, factory orders declined by 0.7% in January, worse than the 0.5% drop predicted by analysts. December's drop was revised lower to 2%, from a 1.5% fall previously.
Meanwhile, non-farm labour productivity rose less than initially estimated in the fourth quarter of 2013, expanding at an annualised pace of just 1.8%. This was down from the preliminary reading of a 3.2% gain and less than expectations for a revision to 2.2%.
Aviva rises after 2013 results impress
Shares in insurer Aviva soared after investors celebrated a better-than-expected set of 2013 results as its turnaround under Chief Executive Mark Wilson saw encouraging progress.
Schroders also surged after hiking its full-year dividend by 35% following a record year for the asset management group in 2013 as the company saw profits increase 41%.
Temporary power group Aggreko jumped strongly after confirming that it would return £200m in capital to shareholders, outweighing the news that profits fell 8% last year.
Results from engineering group IMI, however, failed to impress as the company reported a 3% increase in revenues from continuing operations. The company said it expects "modest" growth in the first half of 2014, but only when excluding the adverse impact of exchange rates.
Meggitt extended yesterday's losses which came after Deutsche Bank cut its target price from 510p to 485p, and JP Morgan cut its target from 575p to 540p.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Aviva (AV.) 504.00p +8.13%
Schroders (SDR) 2,727.00p +5.29%
Fresnillo (FRES) 948.00p +3.83%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,628.00p +3.50%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,565.00p +2.96%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 796.00p +2.45%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 339.95p +2.33%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 390.10p +2.12%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 382.60p +1.59%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,107.00p +1.56%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
IMI (IMI) 1,481.00p -4.33%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,290.00p -2.29%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,711.00p -1.61%
Meggitt (MGGT) 479.20p -1.52%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,916.00p -1.49%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,372.00p -1.42%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 783.00p -1.26%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 496.80p -1.23%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,417.00p -1.12%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 233.60p -1.02%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Essar Energy (ESSR) 75.00p +11.69%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 320.00p +6.07%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 204.40p +5.91%
NMC Health (NMC) 529.00p +5.38%
Alent (ALNT) 322.80p +4.98%
Man Group (EMG) 106.10p +4.95%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 892.50p +4.08%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 701.50p +4.08%
Henderson Group (HGG) 254.20p +3.97%
Polymetal International (POLY) 591.00p +3.96%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 297.60p -7.41%
Pace (PIC) 447.90p -5.61%
Keller Group (KLR) 1,126.00p -4.66%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 180.00p -4.56%
Perform Group (PER) 282.20p -4.34%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,242.00p -4.09%
Unite Group (UTG) 437.00p -3.32%
Shaftesbury (SHB) 629.00p -3.23%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 555.50p -2.80%
CSR (CSR) 768.00p -2.54%