- Draghi in focus as ECB decides on policy
- BoE holds rates, global data ahead
- Standard Life surges after Canadian deal
- EasyJet, Supergroup and Go-Ahead rise
techMARK 2,868.07 +0.03%
FTSE 100 6,888.35 +0.21%
FTSE 250 15,960.26 -0.20%
UK market were rangebound on Thursday morning, fluctuating near a record high, as investors sat on their hands ahead of a policy decision by the European Central Bank (ECB).
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.2% higher at 6,888 by midday, helped by a surge in the share price of Standard Life and decent gains by Easyjet.
The index climbed to 6,873.58 by the close on Wednesday, after hitting an intraday high of 6,898.62 during the session - its highest intraday level since the record 6,950.60 set in late December 1999.
At noon, the Bank of England (BoE) voted to keep the Bank Rate at 0.5% and its asset purchase programme at £375bn. However, speculation continues to rise over when policymakers will decided to hike rates after two of the nine-member committee voted for an increase last month.
Nevertheless, with the BoE decision widely expected by the market, the ECB is likely to steal the show amid recent calls for President Mario Draghi to inject stimulus to aid a struggling Eurozone recovery.
Draghi hinted at the Jackson Hole conference last month that inflation expectations were falling and that the ECB would use "all available instruments needed to ensure price stability". However, the ECB President has a "history of disappointing", according to dealer Jonathan Sudaria from Capital Spreads.
"Unfortunately, he has put undue pressure on himself and markets will want to see something concrete at today's ECB press conference. The risk is that just repeating what he said at Jackson Hole may not be enough for traders," Sudaria said.
Labour-market figures from the States will also be in focus, including the ADP employment survey and jobless claims data, as markets await the all-important August US non-farm payrolls report due out on Friday. The US trade balance and ISM non-manufacturing index will also be released on Thursday afternoon.
Standard Life agrees £2.2bn sale of Canadian unit
Standard Life surged 9% after saying that it has agreed to sell its Canadian operations for C$4bn (£2.2bn) to Manulife Financial and would return £1.75bn of this to shareholders. The two companies also made a collaboration agreement in principle for Manulife to distribute Standard Life Investments' products via the Canadian company's network in Canada, the US and Asia.
Budget airline Easyjet was higher after seeing annual traffic pick up slightly in August, with passenger numbers up 8.4% on the year before, compared with the 7.7% increase registered in July.
Centrica inched lower after saying that the negative impact on earnings from a reduction in output at EDF Energy's nuclear power stations is now expected to be at least twice the amount originally estimated.
On the FTSE 250, fashion retailer Supergroup jumped after the 3.7% decline in first-quarter like-for-like sales was not as bad as analysts had feared. The company also reassured the market by highlighting improving trends over the first few weeks of the second quarter.
A 44.5% leap in profit to £91.2m helped to drive shares
in Go-Ahead Group higher as the transport company cheered with its full-year results.
Balfour Beatty had erased earlier gains by midday after agreeing to sell its US business Parsons Brinckerhoff to Canadian industrial group WSP Global for $1.35bn cash (£0.8bn). The infrastructure group said it would hand £200m back to shareholders, though analysts at Westhouse Securities pointed out that the sale price may have disappointed some in the market after recent media speculation.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Standard Life (SL.) 418.90p +8.50%
Dixons Carphone (DC.) 372.60p +2.36%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,692.00p +2.32%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,293.00p +2.29%
Carnival (CCL) 2,329.00p +1.70%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,383.00p +1.39%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,053.00p +1.35%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,330.00p +0.91%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,469.00p +0.84%
SSE (SSE) 1,500.00p +0.81%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,049.00p -2.24%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,005.00p -1.66%
Tesco (TSCO) 229.55p -1.31%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 173.10p -1.25%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 293.10p -1.25%
Capita (CPI) 1,217.00p -1.22%
CRH (CRH) 1,429.00p -1.18%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,116.00p -1.15%
Meggitt (MGGT) 477.30p -0.98%
3i Group (III) 388.80p -0.97%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Supergroup (SGP) 1,143.00p +9.27%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 2,359.00p +3.78%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 311.90p +3.62%
Betfair Group (BET) 1,130.00p +3.20%
DCC (DCC) 3,665.00p +2.95%
Serco Group (SRP) 320.60p +2.49%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 271.25p +2.36%
Nostrum Oil & Gas (NOG) 779.50p +2.03%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,135.00p +1.70%
Provident Financial (PFG) 2,161.00p +1.31%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 166.50p -3.76%
AO World (AO.) 217.30p -3.42%
Just Eat (JE.) 290.50p -2.52%
National Express Group (NEX) 252.70p -2.36%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 836.50p -2.22%
Keller Group (KLR) 890.00p -2.20%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 122.20p -2.08%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 590.00p -1.99%
Essentra (ESNT) 852.50p -1.96%
Brit (BRIT) 250.00p -1.92%