- All eyes on ECB meeting
- Concerns about China, Japan and Australia weigh on sentiment
- Britvic in merger talks with AG Barr
The FTSE 100 was well off its intraday low by Wednesday lunchtime but still firmly in the red as investors continued to fret about the upcoming policy decision in Europe tomorrow.
More than one-tenth of the top-share index's constituents are trading in ex-dividend format today, which is acting as a millstone around the benchmark's neck.
European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi is widely expected to unveil plans on Thursday for buying sovereign debt in order to bring down bond yields in peripheral nations. "Whatever the decision however, there is still a long way to go before we go back to any sense of normality," said trader Simon Furlong from Spreadex this morning.
US stock futures were pointing to a weak start on Wall Street in a few hours on the back of global growth concerns and a profit warning from economic bellwether FedEx Corp.
Weighing on sentiment were gross domestic product (GDP) growth figures from Australia this morning. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, second-quarter GDP rose by 0.6%, below the 0.8% growth expected.
Meanwhile, the HSBC China service sector purchasing managers' index for the month of August revealed a small slowdown, retreating to 52 points from 53.1 in the month before.
Bank of Japan (BoJ) board member Ryuzo Miyao has said that the odds of an extended world economic slowdown have increased and that the monetary authority must remain ready to take decisive action if necessary.
FTSE 100: Xstrata and Glencore gain before shareholder vote
Potential merger partners Xstrata and Glencore were on the rise ahead of a crucial day on Friday, when shareholders vote on the proposed tie-up. Qatar Holdings, which owns around 12% of the miner, is among the several shareholders who have already voiced their opposition to the merger.
Oil titan BP was falling heavily this morning on press reports that the US Department of Justice is intent on throwing the book at the company for its part in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, as it seeks to have the maximum possible penalties imposed on the British firm.
Several stocks were lower after going ex-dividend today, meaning that investors will not be able to access the firm's latest payout. These include: Aggreko, ARM Holdings, BHP Billiton, Diageo, Evraz, IMI, Kazakhmys, Resolution, Serco, Shire and Tullow Oil.
Financial services provider and asset management group Hargreaves Lansdown was flat despite saying total assets under administration rose 7% in the year ended 30th June 2012 while profit jumped 21% despite continued market volatility.
Insurance group Prudential gained after completing the acquisition of SRLC American Holdings Corp from Swiss Re after receiving all necessary regulatory approvals.
Shares of BG Group are dropping towards the bottom of the pile after analysts at Jefferies lowered their price target for the company to 1,800p from 2,000p. In their own words, "we believe BG either needs to achieve scale and significance, or take some value off the table. (...) Either BG needs to divest some Brazil exposure and crystallise value, or we also explore the potential of BG merging or acquiring to create a larger, more capable organisation (...) reducing target price to reflect aligned Lula and other pre-salt asset valuations."
Telecoms group BT Group was benefitting from a broker upgrade from JPMorgan Cazenove, who lifted its rating from 'neutral' to 'overweight'.
FTSE 250: Britvic, AG Barr gain on merger hopes
Drinks companies Britvic and AG Barr have announced that they are in discussions about an all-share merger which would create "one of the leading soft drinks companies in Europe". Shares in Britvic surged by nearly 14%, while AG Barr was up around 7%. At today's prices, the market cap of the combined group would be around £1.4bn.
Sporting goods retailer Sports Direct gained after saying total sales for the 13 weeks ending July 29th were up 25.3% after sales were "boosted by the tremendous performance of Team GB at the London Olympics."
Investors of airline easyJet celebrated the group's plans to give up the 'no reserved seats' format it pioneered after customers said they would rather avoid the scramble traditionally associated with boarding a low cost flight.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Wolseley (WOS) 2,617.00p +2.15%
ITV (ITV) 83.70p +2.07%
Xstrata (XTA) 936.00p +2.02%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 674.00p +1.97%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,544.00p +1.71%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 33.45p +1.69%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,623.00p +1.69%
CRH (CRH) 1,115.00p +1.64%
Sage Group (SGE) 304.80p +1.50%
Prudential (PRU) 781.50p +1.49%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
BP (BP.) 419.65p -3.88%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 206.20p -3.64%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,769.00p -3.17%
BG Group (BG.) 1,235.00p -2.83%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 580.50p -2.76%
Evraz (EVR) 213.10p -2.25%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 1,357.00p -1.52%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 296.20p -1.50%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,413.00p -1.47%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,228.00p -1.30%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Britvic (BVIC) 370.90p +12.87%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 439.00p +5.63%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 330.00p +5.10%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 63.05p +3.53%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 522.50p +3.36%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 53.70p +2.97%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 120.00p +2.56%
Heritage Oil (HOIL) 198.50p +2.32%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 97.70p +2.30%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 1,523.00p +2.21%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Bumi (BUMI) 271.00p -5.90%
Cape (CIU) 226.00p -4.72%
Lonmin (LMI) 540.50p -4.25%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 489.00p -3.83%
Gem Diamonds Ltd. (DI) (GEMD) 152.50p -3.48%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 424.20p -2.91%
John Laing Infrastructure Fund Ltd (JLIF) 108.10p -2.88%
SEGRO (SGRO) 224.00p -2.86%
Soco International (SIA) 334.70p -2.73%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 146.90p -2.72%