- UK economy still struggling to rebalance
- Motor insurers off as prices drop
- Focus to be on Fed meeting minutes
techMARK 2,725.84 +1.05%
FTSE 100 6,640.60 +0.76%
FTSE 250 16,156.11 +0.88%
Equities were continuing to move higher at the midday mark, lifted by a decent performance in the US overnight and ahead of the release of the minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting.
US stocks ended yesterday's session with modest gains, following three days of heavy declines, in what was a rather turbulent day following heightened tensions in Eastern Europe.
Data out today showed that the UK's economy continues to struggle to rebalance. Thus, economists at Capital Economics pointed out how the reduction in the trade deficit was entirely down to a 1.2% decrease in the value of imports. In turn, that can be attributed to weaker imports of so-called "erratic" goods.
In fact, the goods deficit calculated excluding erratic goods actually worsened to £8.5bn from £8bn, they added.
For his part, speaking on Bloomberg TV Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said that the government will continue with its current deficit reduction plan. That comes despite the International Monetary Fund's upwards revision to its growth estimates for the UK economy this year to 2.9% from 2.5%.
Also last night, US aluminum producer Alcoa marked the unofficial start of the first-quarter earnings season with its results, with revenue slightly below consensus forecasts, although shares
logged a decent 3% rise after hours.
Fed minutes in focus
Today's attention will be focused on the US Federal Reserve, which will release minutes of its meeting in March when it announced another round of stimulus tapering.
The central bank shaved off a further $10bn off its monthly bond purchase following the March 18th to 19th meeting. Fed Chair Janet Yellen surprised markets by saying the first rise in interest rates could come six months after the end to quantitative easing.
If the Fed keeps up the current pace of asset buying reductions, the programme will end around October.
Last week Yellen said the bank's "extraordinary commitment" to improving the labour market "is still needed and will be for some time, and I believe that this view is widely held by my fellow policymakers at the Fed".
The minutes may shed further light on the Fed's decision to scale back QE and on Yellen's remarks regarding interest rates.
No further special dividends expected from Antofagasta for at least two years
Kingfisher was one of this morning's best performers. UBS lifted its target price on the shares to 475p from 440p on expectations that the company will manage to successfully complete and executive purchase of Mr Bricloage, France's number three DIY retailer in France.
The same broker slashed its recommendation on Antofagasta to 'sell' from 'neutral' because no special dividend is now expected for at least two years and the miner's cash flow generation is expected to turn negative in 2014. Hence, the stock can no longer command a 'premium' recommendation.
ARM Holdings was a notable riser this morning, with bargain hunters stepping in after the tech-heavy Nasdaq last night managed to snap its recent losing streak.
Housebuilding stocks Barratt Developments and Travis Perkins both performed well as the industry continues to see encouraging signs of improvement.
Insurance stocks extended yesterday's declines. Survey data from Confused.com/Towers Watson revealed a 7.5% fall in insurance prices during the first quarter of the year, sending the likes of Admiral and Direct Line Group reeling.
Rolls-Royce climbed after announcing that it has been awarded a $100m contract to service the US Navy's T-45 training aircraft. The contractor logistics support contract with the US Department of Defense is a one-year extension to the existing agreement. Rolls-Royce has provided support to the US Navy's training fleet for the past 10 years.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Tullow Oil (TLW) 843.50p +2.93%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 391.70p +2.75%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,411.00p +2.69%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,834.00p +2.63%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,324.00p +2.60%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,429.00p +2.58%
Kingfisher (KGF) 432.40p +2.39%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 1,008.00p +2.39%
WPP (WPP) 1,248.00p +2.38%
Rexam (REX) 505.50p +2.27%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Standard Life (SL.) 378.10p -1.92%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,366.00p -1.23%
Tesco (TSCO) 284.50p -1.16%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 863.00p -0.86%
Reed Elsevier (REL) 885.00p -0.84%
BG Group (BG.) 1,119.00p -0.84%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,634.00p -0.42%
SSE (SSE) 1,474.00p -0.41%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 202.20p -0.39%
Carnival (CCL) 2,327.00p -0.39%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 84.40p +6.90%
Carillion (CLLN) 380.00p +5.44%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 322.00p +5.16%
Tullett Prebon (TLPR) 315.60p +4.33%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 360.10p +4.26%
ITE Group (ITE) 198.60p +4.20%
EnQuest (ENQ) 128.00p +3.98%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 309.00p +3.69%
RPS Group (RPS) 313.80p +3.56%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 1,032.00p +2.89%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
esure Group (ESUR) 251.00p -6.24%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 231.60p -3.02%
Berendsen (BRSN) 1,055.00p -2.41%
Heritage Oil (HOIL) 238.60p -2.33%
BBA Aviation (BBA) 325.30p -2.25%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,784.00p -1.81%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 52.50p -1.50%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 123.20p -1.44%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 404.60p -1.32%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 150.10p -1.25%