- Ukraine and Russia working towards a ceasefire, reports say
- Chinese, UK services PMIs improve, Eurozone PMI falls
- Ashtead rises after upbeat outlook
- Vodafone up on takeover speculation
techMARK 2,879.44 +0.71%
FTSE 100 6,882.50 +0.78%
FTSE 250 16,018.45 +0.33%
London's FTSE 100 hit its highest level in 14 years on Wednesday with stocks bolstered by upbeat services data from China and the UK and hopes for a potential ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.
The blue-chip index was rising for the fourth straight session, climbing to an intraday high of 6,898.62 in morning trade, a level not seen since early January 2000.
By lunchtime, gains were pared slightly though the Footsie was still up 0.8% at 6,883 and on track to finish at its highest since the record high of 6,930.20 reached in late December 1999.
Driving gains were reports of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin working towards a ceasefire to stop fighting in eastern Ukraine.
"Reports of a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has been welcomed with open arms by the markets, following months of growing tensions between Russia and the West that has resulted in painful economic sanctions being applied by both sides," said analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.
Meanwhile, purchasing managers' indices (PMIs) from the Chinese and UK services sectors both showed that activity growth had picked up in August. In particular, the UK services PMI jumped to a 10-month high.
On a less positive note, the final estimate of the Eurozone services PMI was revised lower, indicating a slowdown last month. However, it is likely to have fuelled hopes for potential stimulus measures by the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB's next meeting is on Thursday.
Ashtead, Vodafone on the rise
Shares in Ashtead jumped after the group said it expects to beat full-year expectations as profits jumped by a third to a record high in its first quarter, helped by strong revenue growth and improving margins. Chief executive Geoff Drabble said that the company "continue[s] to capitalise on recovering markets" and that its US and UK divisions took further market share.
Telecoms titan Vodafone was making gains after Japan's Nikkei newspaper suggested that Japanese group Softbank is mulling a takeover of the UK firm.
Heading the other way was Hargreaves Lansdown after its final results showed assets under administration (AuA) were less than consensus expectations. The financial services group lifted AuA up 29% at £46.9bn, versus forecasts of at least £48m.
A number of other blue chips were also lower on Wednesday after going ex-dividend, including BHP Billiton and TUI Travel. Glencore also went ex-dividend, but early gains were quickly erased after Investec lifted its rating on the stock from 'hold' to 'add'.
On the FTSE 250, Booker's share price dropped sharply after German retailer Metro sold its entire 9% holding in the UK cash-and-carry chain.
FTSE 100 - Risers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 376.10p +3.13%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,446.00p +2.99%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,777.00p +2.62%
CRH (CRH) 1,429.00p +2.22%
Barclays (BARC) 227.15p +2.16%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,007.00p +2.08%
GKN (GKN) 359.70p +1.87%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,370.00p +1.86%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,480.00p +1.72%
BG Group (BG.) 1,228.50p +1.70%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,092.00p -4.13%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,283.00p -3.17%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,898.00p -1.15%
Fresnillo (FRES) 941.50p -1.15%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 348.00p -1.00%
TUI Travel (TT.) 369.70p -0.56%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 360.70p -0.47%
BAE Systems (BA.) 453.40p -0.42%
St James's Place (STJ) 722.00p -0.35%
SSE (SSE) 1,489.00p -0.33%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Just Eat (JE.) 288.00p +7.02%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 723.00p +3.29%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 131.60p +2.81%
Redrow (RDW) 286.10p +2.80%
Evraz (EVR) 109.90p +2.71%
Aveva Group (AVV) 2,139.00p +2.69%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 595.00p +2.59%
Drax Group (DRX) 645.00p +2.54%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 224.30p +2.42%
BTG (BTG) 668.00p +2.30%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Booker Group (BOK) 127.20p -5.99%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 229.20p -3.45%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 340.70p -3.10%
esure Group (ESUR) 260.80p -3.01%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 324.00p -2.85%
John Laing Infrastructure Fund Ltd (JLIF) 117.50p -2.65%
Exova Group (EXO) 186.20p -2.00%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 164.50p -1.97%
Supergroup (SGP) 1,023.00p -1.92%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 319.70p -1.66%