- UK construction, mortgage data beats expectations
- China services PMI eased in December
- Next surges after bullish Q4 update, guidance
techMARK 2,779.70 +0.26%
FTSE 100 6,722.39 +0.07%
FTSE 250 15,972.09 +0.33%
Markets got off to a slow start on Friday morning but had pushed into positive territory by lunchtime after some better-than-expected economic figures from the UK.
Meanwhile, a bullish statement from retail bellwether Next also helped High Street stocks recover following a profit warning from Debenhams earlier in the week.
Nevertheless, the FTSE 100 was only registering small gains by midday, trading just a few points higher than Thursday's close of 6,717.91.
Chinese data released overnight sparked a fall on markets in Asia, as growth in the services sector eased in December. The purchasing managers' index (PMI) measuring the Chinese non-manufacturing sector fell from 56 to 54.6 last month - its worst reading since August 2013.
This following a raft of manufacturing PMIs out from China, the US and UK yesterday which also showed that activity had slowed down in December.
However, sentiment recovered slightly after the UK construction PMI beat consensus forecasts this morning. The PMI fell from 62.6 to 62.1 in December but still showed that activity grew at its fastest rate in over six years. This was marginally ahead of the 62 figure analysts were expected.
Meanwhile, mortgage approvals rose from a revised 68,029 to a near six-year high of 70,758 in November, above the rise to 69,700 expected.
Over in the States this afternoon, data on vehicle sales, the New York ISM index and a press conference with soon-to-be-departing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be on investors' minds. US stock futures were pointing to small gains when Wall Street opens later on
Retailers rise after Next ups guidance
Retail stocks were performing well today after Next raised its full-year profit guidance following a "significantly" better-than-expected fourth quarter. The retailer also revealed a special dividend of 50p a share and said it would return a further £300m of surplus cash in the year ahead, helping its share price rise as much as 10% this morning.
The news comes just a day after department stores John Lewis and House of Fraser reported excellent sales over the key Christmas period. According to The Times, the latter's Chief Executive John King said that the group expects to float on the London stock market by the end of the year.
Other retailers including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Sports Direct, Kingfisher, Dixons and Home Retail were also trading higher today. Debenhams advanced too, as it continues to recover after a sharp fall on Tuesday.
Hargreaves Lansdown and Schroders were also providing a lift after analysts at Barclays Capital highlighted an improving flow outlook for UK asset managers in 2014. The bank gave both stocks an 'overweight' rating.
Leading the downside were mining stocks after the worsening data from China, with Glencore Xstrata, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Kazakhmys trading firmly lower.
United Arab Emirates healthcare provider NMC Health fell despite saying that its 2013 results will be in line with expectations, with growth seen in both its healthcare and distribution divisions throughout the 12-month period.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Next (NXT) 5,985.00p +8.23%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 442.10p +3.46%
Schroders (SDR) 2,652.00p +1.80%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 373.10p +1.55%
Hammerson (HMSO) 497.10p +1.37%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,424.00p +1.35%
TUI Travel (TT.) 410.10p +1.31%
Sage Group (SGE) 399.10p +1.27%
Fresnillo (FRES) 764.50p +1.26%
William Hill (WMH) 403.10p +1.21%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Rexam (REX) 509.50p -1.64%
Pearson (PSON) 1,324.00p -1.19%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,333.00p -1.08%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 653.10p -1.00%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,035.00p -0.96%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 307.55p -0.95%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 776.50p -0.89%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 485.70p -0.88%
Prudential (PRU) 1,334.00p -0.74%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,345.00p -0.74%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 49.50p +4.14%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 205.50p +4.05%
Debenhams (DEB) 77.70p +3.39%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,680.00p +2.97%
Hays (HAS) 132.80p +2.95%
RPS Group (RPS) 343.50p +2.91%
Redrow (RDW) 326.90p +2.57%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 308.40p +2.49%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 532.00p +2.41%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 435.10p +2.35%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 208.70p -3.42%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 520.50p -3.16%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 20.50p -3.12%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 184.80p -2.99%
NMC Health (NMC) 436.80p -2.70%
Lonmin (LMI) 308.40p -1.78%
Perform Group (PER) 220.00p -1.57%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,009.00p -1.56%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 127.10p -1.47%
Edinburgh Dragon Trust (EFM) 238.60p -1.41%