- Barclays, Standard Chartered, BT and Morrison rise after results
- BoE holds policy, ECB in focus
- Yellen signals need for continued support
- Ukraine tensions ease slightly after Putin comments
techMARK 2,796.26 +0.19%
FTSE 100 6,836.23 +0.59%
FTSE 250 15,916.36 +0.22%
Decent gains from Barclays, Standard Chartered, BT and WM Morrison gave markets a boost on Thursday, as investors awaited policy decisions in the UK and Europe.
As expected, the Bank of England chose to keep the Bank Rate at 0.5% and leave its asset purchase programme unchanged at £375bn.
Focus now turns to the European Central Bank (ECB) with markets waiting to see whether President Mario Draghi unveils new stimulus measures in a bid to bring down a strengthening euro with inflation still weak. However, the general consensus is that the ECB will also choose to keep policy on hold.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.6% higher at 6,836 by midday; it has not closed above this level since February 24th.
Markets were tracking gains made on Wall Street on Wednesday evening after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the central bank will continue to stimulate the US economy with inflation and the labour market still far away from targets. Meanwhile, she said there were signs that a slowdown in the housing market is posing a fresh risk to the recovery.
Comments made yesterday by Russian President Vladimir Putin also helped sentiment after he signalled that he is open to discussing measures to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.
He also said he had pulled Russian troops from the borders as he called on pro-Russian activists in Eastern Ukraine to postpone a planned referendum this weekend.
However, reports suggest that the separatists will not heed Putin's request and the vote will go ahead on May 11th as planned. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been cited as saying that there is "growing momentum amongst a series of separatist groups who neither listen to Moscow, nor to Kiev". He said that growing instability in Ukraine "isn't in Russia's interest in the long term".
Barclays, Standard Chartered, BT and WM Morrison rise
Barclays gained after unveiling plans to cut 14,000 jobs across the group as part of a strategy update aimed at creating a "leaner, stronger" bank. In what it described as a "bold simplification" of the group, Barclays said it would become a focused international bank, costing it a further £800m, in addition to the original £2.7bn announced in February 2013.
Domestic banking peers Lloyds and RBS were also higher, along with emerging markets-focused Standard Chartered, which rose despite saying that profits declined by a "high single-digit percentage" in the first quarter.
BT rose strongly after its new TV sport channels underpinned record fourth-quarter consumer revenues, helping the UK telecoms group to ring up higher annual profits.
Supermarket chain WM Morrison also gained after holding on to its full-year targets even after a slump in sales in its first quarter amid rising competition in the UK grocery industry.
Heading the other way was software firm Sage which underwhelmed with 5% organic revenue growth in the first half, as it announced the resignation of long-running Chief Executive Officer Guy Berruyer.
Energy company Centrica, owner of British Gas in the UK and Direct Energy in the US, was also lower after cautioning of a reduced full-year outlook for earnings in 2014 due to challenging conditions on both sides of the Atlantic.
On the FTSE 250, fashion retailer SuperGroup saw shares
plummet after reporting a steep slowdown in sales growth in the fourth quarter and saying that full-year profits would be at the lower end of expectations.
Sports media group Perform impressed with strong revenue growth in the first quarter and the appointment of a respected new finance chief.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Barclays (BARC) 256.45p +5.40%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,321.50p +3.20%
BT Group (BT.A) 388.60p +3.13%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 196.50p +2.99%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,017.00p +2.52%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 403.80p +2.44%
Old Mutual (OML) 207.20p +2.02%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,723.50p +2.00%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,096.00p +1.67%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 382.40p +1.62%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Sage Group (SGE) 397.00p -5.92%
Centrica (CNA) 317.60p -2.82%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,400.00p -1.48%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 847.00p -1.45%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,636.00p -1.42%
Meggitt (MGGT) 478.60p -0.85%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 782.50p -0.82%
G4S (GFS) 248.20p -0.80%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 224.95p -0.79%
SSE (SSE) 1,533.00p -0.78%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Perform Group (PER) 251.30p +7.39%
Diploma (DPLM) 695.00p +3.04%
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 161.20p +2.94%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 251.60p +2.57%
3i Group (III) 380.50p +2.04%
ICAP (IAP) 402.20p +1.98%
Polymetal International (POLY) 571.00p +1.96%
NMC Health (NMC) 462.00p +1.85%
UBM (UBM) 667.00p +1.83%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 297.80p +1.81%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Supergroup (SGP) 1,198.00p -11.13%
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 123.80p -3.66%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 159.10p -2.51%
Keller Group (KLR) 987.50p -2.42%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 289.60p -2.16%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 1,700.00p -2.02%
Afren (AFR) 161.90p -1.94%
Fenner (FENR) 399.50p -1.84%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 232.10p -1.74%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 306.40p -1.57%