- Ex-div stocks weigh on Footsie
- MPC minutes: Miles calls for more QE
- Eurozone swings to deficit in February
- UK jobless rate falls for first time since May 2011
London's FTSE 100 index was trading slightly lower by Wednesday lunchtime following a strong showing from the benchmark yesterday, as ex-dividend blue chips offset gains in the mining sector.
Just one member of the Bank of England's policy making group voted for an increase in quantitative easing in April, according to the minutes of the meeting. While members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to keep interest rates on hold, only David Miles voted to increase the £325bn programme of asset purchases.
Meanwhile, in other domestic news, the number of unemployed people in the United Kingdom fell by 35,000 in the three months to February, according to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That saw the unemployment rate fall by a tenth of a percentage point to 8.3% and marks the first quarterly decrease since the three months to May 2011.
The Eurozone current account showed a deficit of €1.3bn in February, compared with forecasts of a €4.1bn surplus., according to the European Central Bank. January's surplus was also revised down.
FTSE 100: Gains for Tesco trimmed, ex-div stocks provide downward pressure
After being one of the high risers in the opening hour, supermarket firm Tesco had pared gains to trade broadly flat by lunchtime after its in-line full-year results. According to Merchant Securities, the stock is trading at a "justified" discount to sector peers Sainsbury and Morrison and is "fairly priced". The latter two stocks were putting in a solid performance today.
Some heavyweights on the FTSE 100 are providing a drag today after going ex-dividend, including BAE Systems, Capita, Kazakhmys, Legal & General, Old Mutual, Petrofac, Resolution and Smith & Nephew.
Meanwhile, miners were doing their best to lift the Footsie with precious metals group Fresnillo rising strongly. The group this morning hailed a strong start to 2012 with gold production beating its own expectations and silver output being on target. BHP Billiton was wanted after iron ore production at its Western Australian operations still hit record levels in the nine months to the end of March, despite cyclone activity depressing third quarter production. Sector peers Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Antofagasta were also on the up.
International distribution and outsourcing group Bunzl fell despite saying trading in 2012 has been strong, with the group seeing solid top line growth and an improvement in the group operating margin. Engineering group GKN also underwhelmed the markets to fall after reporting a 17% increase in year-on-year sales in the first quarter.
FTSE 250: Ashtead on the rise, Heritage & Computacenter unwanted
Rental equipment firm Ashtead was a high riser on the back of a positive read-across from US peer United Rentals which beat consensus estimates after the closing bell on Wall Street last night. "We stress these successive record quarterly performances from both United Rentals and Ashtead are being delivered without the benefit, as yet, of any macroeconomic recovery," said US broker Jefferies.
European IT services provider Computacenter was a heavy faller after saying that margins had been hit in the first quarter due to the costs of moving staff into new roles in its services division and sales commissions.
Oil and gas exploration and production company Heritage Oil saw losses from continuing operations widen in 2011 as it cranked up its capital expenditure programme.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,636.00p +4.01%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,752.00p +2.88%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,227.00p +2.59%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 479.00p +1.59%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,956.00p +1.53%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,026.00p +1.25%
ITV (ITV) 89.20p +1.25%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 299.70p +1.22%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 1,501.00p +1.21%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,476.00p +1.19%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 226.40p -5.27%
BAE Systems (BA.) 291.70p -3.98%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 119.80p -3.54%
Schroders (Non-Voting) (SDRC) 1,096.00p -2.75%
CRH (CRH) 1,248.00p -2.42%
Old Mutual (OML) 151.70p -2.38%
Man Group (EMG) 105.00p -2.33%
Capita (CPI) 732.00p -2.14%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 879.50p -2.01%
Evraz (EVR) 369.90p -1.94%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ashtead Group (AHT) 254.20p +4.95%
Oxford Instruments (OXIG) 1,276.00p +3.91%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 50.90p +3.56%
BTG (BGC) 370.10p +2.98%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 371.00p +2.60%
Anglo Pacific Group (APF) 310.70p +2.20%
AG Barr (BAG) 1,169.00p +2.10%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 694.00p +2.06%
RPC Group (RPC) 373.80p +2.05%
Exillon Energy (EXI) 132.50p +1.92%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Heritage Oil (HOIL) 139.60p -4.71%
Elementis (ELM) 197.60p -4.08%
BBA Aviation (BBA) 201.60p -3.54%
HICL Infrastructure Company Ltd (HICL) 120.10p -2.83%
Cape (CIU) 374.30p -2.73%
Chemring Group (CHG) 380.80p -2.71%
Supergroup (SGP) 581.50p -2.43%
Hays (HAS) 90.40p -2.27%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 132.80p -2.14%
Drax Group (DRX) 527.50p -2.13%