- FTSE 100 at lowest level since October 14th
- BoE, ECB announce policy decisions
- US data in focus later on, Wall Street futures flat
- AZ Electronic Materials rockets after Merck offer
techMARK 2,644.54 +0.02%
FTSE 100 6,504.39 -0.09%
FTSE 250 15,200.92 +0.48%
UK markets were rangebound on Thursday morning, fluctuating at their lowest levels in seven weeks, ahead of a busy day on the macro front.
The FTSE 100 was trading broadly flat since Wednesday's close of 6,509.97, its worst finish since October 14th, as uncertainty surrounding the impending tapering of stimulus in the States continued to erode risk appetite.
The Bank of England today announced that it had maintained the Bank Rate of 0.5% and its asset purchase programme at £375bn.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is up next and is also expected to leave its policy unchanged. The ECB last month surprised the market by lowering its rate from 0.50% to 0.25% due to deflationary fears.
US data in focus ahead of Fed decision
Meanwhile, US stock futures were pointing to a similarly flat start on Wall Street today ahead of the release a batch of economic figures later on.
Upbeat readings of US private payrolls and new home sales sparked the fourth straight fall for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500
last night, given that an improved economy only backs the argument for the Federal Reserve to scale back the rate of its asset purchases sooner than initially expected.
The official jobs report - likely to be a key factor in the Fed's policy decision at its meeting on December 17-18th - is due out on Friday afternoon and is expected to reveal a 183,000 increase in non-farm payrolls for November, below the 204,000 gain in October.
"The key release as far as the Fed is concerned will be tomorrow's jobs report, but that doesn't mean today's GDP revision, jobless claims and factory orders data won't also play a part," said analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.
"If these are all seen to be improving, like the majority of the data we've had in the last couple of months, and we get another strong jobs report tomorrow, the FOMC may struggle to justify not tapering in December."
AZ Electronic Materials rockets after £1.6bn offer from Merck
AZ Electronic Materials' share price rocketed after German drugs and chemicals giant Merck launched a 403.5p-a-share offer for the specialty chemicals firm, a 53% premium to yesterday's closing price. The all-cash recommended deal values the company at £1,565m and sent AZEM's stock up around 52% to 399p in morning trade.
Mining stocks were mostly up this morning, rebounding after some sharp falls earlier in the week. Precious metal peers Fresnillo, Randgold, Centamin and Hochschild Mining were all making gains despite a dip in gold and silver prices early on.
Even Polymetal was in demand despite revealing that it would not pay a special dividend for 2013 due to its recent performance and negative commodity market conditions.
Packaging firm DS Smith was higher after beating expectations in the first half with a 31% jump in operating profits. Investec raised its target price for the stock this morning, while Numis Securities upgraded its rating from 'hold' to 'add'. Packaging peer Mondi was also in demand this morning.
Travel operator TUI Travel was making gains after Numis reiterated its 'add' rating, saying that "the trading outlook for summer 2014 is increasingly positive".
Budget airline easyJet took off after saying it carried more passengers in November, up 3.4% on the same month a year ago. Investors seemed undeterred by Qantas, the largest carrier in Australia, shocking the market with a profit warning and 1,000 job cuts.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Vedanta Resources (VED) 867.00p +2.48%
Mondi (MNDI) 959.00p +1.86%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,318.00p +1.70%
Fresnillo (FRES) 752.00p +1.69%
Experian (EXPN) 1,095.00p +1.67%
TUI Travel (TT.) 374.40p +1.66%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,210.00p +1.17%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 794.00p +1.15%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 77.49p +0.95%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,076.00p +0.89%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,257.00p -2.41%
Carnival (CCL) 2,132.00p -1.80%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 256.20p -1.73%
Tesco (TSCO) 334.95p -1.49%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 468.20p -1.47%
Next (NXT) 5,470.00p -1.35%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,126.00p -1.20%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,183.00p -1.09%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,325.00p -1.01%
William Hill (WMH) 383.00p -0.98%
FTSE 250 - Risers
AZ Electronic Materials SA (DI) (AZEM) 398.50p +51.58%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 43.83p +13.61%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 316.70p +5.92%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 319.60p +4.24%
Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 1,840.00p +4.13%
Drax Group (DRX) 773.00p +4.04%
Synthomer (SYNT) 229.80p +3.37%
Alent (ALNT) 346.00p +3.28%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 893.00p +2.88%
Homeserve (HSV) 267.10p +2.77%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 672.50p -4.47%
Amlin (AML) 425.30p -2.77%
Computacenter (CCC) 643.00p -2.50%
Halma (HLMA) 556.50p -2.37%
Workspace Group (WKP) 491.00p -2.19%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 74.35p -2.17%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 323.20p -1.85%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 530.00p -1.76%
Henderson Group (HGG) 202.60p -1.55%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 375.60p -1.42%