- Shell, BG Group and Intu lead the risers
- Weir, Schroders and Lloyds fall
- Afren drops after suspending directors
- US data and Fed keep investors cautious
techMARK 2,763.54 -0.57%
FTSE 100 6,763.04 -0.15%
FTSE 250 15,495.73 -0.86%
London stocks were trading in the red for a second straight day on Thursday as investors gave a mixed reaction to a wave of blue-chip corporate earnings and showed their nerves amid policy tightening speculation in the States.
Results from Shell, BG Group, Intu Properties impressed the market in morning trade, offset by falls from Weir, Schroders and Lloyds. Meanwhile, the share price of oil explorer Afren plummeted after the company suspended two directors.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.15% at 6,763 around midday.
The Federal Reserve decided on Wednesday night to taper stimulus by $10bn a month for the sixth straight time, putting the central bank on course to end its quantitative easing programme in October.
However, with the end of monetary stimulus now fast approaching, Wednesday's better-than-expected US growth figures - economy expanded by 4% in second quarter - traders are now concerned that policymakers could be tempted to raise interest rates sooner than expected.
Jasper Lawler, a market analyst at CMC Markets, said that Fed Chair Janet Yellen had aimed to be "dovish while demonstrating a gradual hawkish shift" in the Fed's statement on Wednesday.
However, with growth above expectations and inflation running at the target 2% amid a strengthening labour market, he said the "markets didn't really buy the Fed's attempt at dovishness".
"After growth and inflation, Friday's non-farm payrolls will be the third point in the rate hike 'triangle', another 200k+ report and unemployment below 6% means the Fed really have no excuses not to tighten," he said.
The consensus forecast for the all-important 'official' US employment report is for a 231,000 gain in non-farm payrolls in July, down from an impressive 288,000 in June. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged after falling to 6.1%, its lowest since September 2008.
As for Thursday's session, the focus will be on weekly US initial jobless claims, which are predicted to have risen to 300,000 from a post-recession low of 284,000 the previous week.
Earnings come in mixed
Oil major Royal Dutch Shell impressed with shares
rising strongly after saying earnings more than doubled in the second quarter to $5.1bn, even when including a $1bn net charge due to impairments.
Natural gas group BG Group was also higher as it lifted its interim by a tenth after a strong second quarter led to a 9% increase in earnings per share in the first half.
Intu Properties was in favour after the real estate firm said higher rental income helped to lift underlying earnings as the letting market showed "encouraging signs of improvement".
Heading the other way banking group Lloyds which underwhelmed after saying that underlying profits improved by 32% to £3.82bn in the first half of the year, ahead of the £3.6bn consensus forecast. This was achieved despite a 2.2% fall in total underlying income to £9.25bn.
Engineer Weir was in the red after reporting that profits slid 6% in the first half, reflecting adverse foreign exchange
currency exchange rate
movements and challenging conditions in the mining industry.
Even though it unexpectedly hiked its half-year dividend 50% to 24p, shares in asset manager Schroders slipped after it sounded a note of caution about the retail investor market.
Meanwhile, telecoms group BT and drinks giant Diageo both rose after their results, while engine maker Rolls-Royce and drugs group AstraZeneca underwhelmed.
On the FTSE 250, Afren shares plummeted after the company said that it has suspended its chief executive officer and chief operating officer as an investigation found "the receipt of unauthorised payments potentially for the benefit of the CEO and COO".
FTSE 100 - Risers
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,583.50p +3.80%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,454.00p +3.00%
Intu Properties (INTU) 328.60p +2.59%
BG Group (BG.) 1,203.00p +1.91%
BT Group (BT.A) 390.80p +0.75%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,435.00p +0.70%
BP (BP.) 484.95p +0.66%
Diageo (DGE) 1,799.00p +0.56%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 820.50p +0.55%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,297.00p +0.54%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,556.00p -4.20%
Schroders (SDR) 2,417.00p -3.28%
St James's Place (STJ) 732.00p -3.05%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 74.40p -2.63%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 348.40p -2.60%
GKN (GKN) 342.90p -2.39%
3i Group (III) 377.70p -2.38%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,729.00p -2.26%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 670.00p -2.12%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,089.00p -2.07%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Laird (LRD) 285.80p +6.76%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 163.40p +2.90%
Bodycote (BOY) 710.50p +2.53%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 547.00p +1.86%
Countrywide (CWD) 524.50p +1.84%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 661.00p +1.69%
Workspace Group (WKP) 607.50p +1.59%
Inchcape (INCH) 647.50p +1.57%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 123.20p +1.07%
Rightmove (RMV) 2,258.00p +1.07%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Afren (AFR) 111.50p -25.07%
IP Group (IPO) 181.30p -4.58%
Man Group (EMG) 120.50p -4.44%
Pace (PIC) 322.60p -4.39%
Supergroup (SGP) 1,019.00p -4.23%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,417.00p -3.09%
Homeserve (HSV) 295.30p -2.93%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 380.10p -2.91%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 382.70p -2.87%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 333.40p -2.71%