- FTSE closes up 14.92 points at 6,855.81
- Comments from Asda, Morrison bid speculation, lift supermarkets
- Eurozone trade surplus narrows
- US consumer confidence falls
techMARK 2,745.29 -0.45%
FTSE 100 6,855.81 +0.22%
FTSE 250 15,397.92 -1.40%
Blue chips managed to end the week on a positive note, lifted by supermarkets which rose after Asda said it had managed to lower the number of customers jumping ship to discount stores.
Asda said fewer shoppers were opting for chains such as Lidl and Aldi, welcome news for the so-called 'big four' which have been battling to maintain their share of the market in recent months.
Overall, however, gains were limited, with the FTSE 100 closing up 14.92 points at 6,855.81.
"Chatter in the equity market is currently firmly focused on a rebalancing away from recent winners, the so-called momentum stocks," Spreadex's David White noted.
"Indeed, FTSE 100 winners such as EasyJet and Sports Direct have seen their share prices
lose over 5% in little over a few session, with little bad news to match notable."
Over in the Eurozone, the trade surplus narrowed in March compared to a year earlier, but rose against the prior month after exports and imports fell by 0.5% and 0.6% respectively, according to the preliminary estimate by Eurostat, the European Union's official statistics office.
The trade surplus for March totalled €17.1bn, less than the €21.9bn of a year earlier but more than February's €14.2bn. A consensus among analysts had called for a milder monthly increase to €15.5bn.
Meanwhile, in the States the University of Michigan's consumer confidence reading for May registered a fall, declining to 81.8, compared to consensus expectations of 84.5.
"The fall [...] comes at the end of a week in which we also received weak retail sales and industrial production numbers," Capital Economics said.
"But we think that the underlying trend in economic activity is upwards, meaning that it shouldn't be long before confidence starts to climb again."
US and UK diplomats earlier today warned of further sanctions in Russia if this month's Ukrainian presidential election is undermined.
"If Russia or its proxies disrupt the elections," the US and its allies "will impose sectoral economic sanctions as a result," Secretary of State John Kerry said in London yesterday after meeting his counterparts from Britain, Italy, France and Germany.
He said pro-Russian separatists "are literally sowing mayhem," seeking to "speak for everyone through the barrel of a gun".
Supermarkets lead the upside
Supermarkets were also being driven by market chatter around a potential bid for Morrison by a US-led private equity consortium. According to the Daily Mail's market report, such a bid could total around £6.4bn in cash.
Reckitt Benckiser and British American Tobacco also proved popular after investors sought stocks typically considered slightly less risky.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola HBC slumped after it reported a drop in first quarter revenue and volumes due to the timing of Easter and foreign exchange
movements. The second largest bottler of the brands of The Coca-Cola Company said volumes declined by 4% to 409.6m cases in the three months to March 28th and new sales revenue fell 7% to £1.3bn. Credit Suisse issued a 'neutral' rating for the group, saying the year was "off to a slow start".
Barratt Developments was also a significant faller following its results, which Chris Beauchamp, Market Analyst at IG, said was "an illustration of how concerned investors are that the Bank of England will step in to spoil the house-price party, even though Mark Carney has hinted that interest rates are too blunt an instrument to deal with the revived craze for house buying among the general populace".
TUI Travel shares
were pushed lower by the warning from the Foreign Office about Kenya, from where British tourists are being evacuated. The organisation issued a statement which read: "There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. The main threat comes from extremists linked to al-Shabaab, a militant group that has carried out attacks in Kenya in response to Kenya's military intervention in Somalia." The group, which owns Thomson and First Choice, made the decision to repatriate all of its customers and had cancelled all flights until at least October.
On the second tier, residential property owner and manager Grainger climbed after saying it registered a net asset value (NAV) increase of 12.4% to reach 272p over the six months ending on March 31st. Grainger was also lifted by Numis, which upgraded the stock from 'add' to 'buy', with a target price of 278p.
In un-listed company news, energy group E.On has been told to pay a £12m penalty after an investigation by Ofgem found it had conducted "extensive poor sales practices".
The industry regulator said the group, which is one of the 'big six' energy companies, had misled customers when selling tariffs door-to-door and on the telephone and in some cases had sold tariffs that were more expensive than the ones they were already on with a different company.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 347.70p +4.48%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 212.90p +3.75%
Tesco (TSCO) 310.45p +2.61%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,070.00p +2.22%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,336.00p +2.14%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,823.50p +2.05%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 3,004.00p +2.00%
BG Group (BG.) 1,283.50p +1.95%
Pearson (PSON) 1,170.00p +1.74%
ITV (ITV) 172.50p +1.71%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,381.00p -4.56%
TUI Travel (TT.) 407.70p -3.80%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 344.30p -3.77%
Schroders (SDR) 2,501.00p -3.70%
William Hill (WMH) 325.20p -3.33%
IMI (IMI) 1,536.00p -3.21%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,515.00p -3.19%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 2,992.00p -3.17%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 275.10p -3.03%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,188.00p -2.94%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,490.00p +5.69%
Ted Baker (TED) 1,763.00p +4.57%
Grainger (GRI) 224.00p +4.19%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 295.20p +3.83%
Cranswick (CWK) 1,208.00p +2.37%
Rank Group (RNK) 157.90p +2.33%
Countrywide (CWD) 552.50p +2.31%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 367.90p +2.22%
Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) 53.75p +2.19%
Synergy Health (SYR) 1,244.00p +1.63%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Booker Group (BOK) 143.50p -6.09%
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (UDG) 326.00p -5.56%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,417.00p -5.41%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 133.50p -5.32%
Interserve (IRV) 648.50p -5.05%
BTG (BTG) 513.00p -5.00%
Victrex plc (VCT) 1,670.00p -4.95%
Close Brothers Group (CBG) 1,264.00p -4.89%
RPS Group (RPS) 274.80p -4.88%
Fenner (FENR) 379.90p -4.60%