- Expectations high ahead of ECB meeting
- BoE decision and global economic data also in focus
- Standard Life surges on cash return news
- FTSE 100 nears 14-year and record intraday high
techMARK 2,868.54 +0.04%
FTSE 100 6,881.13 +0.11%
FTSE 250 15,977.67 -0.09%
UK stocks were close to a 14-year and record high on Thursday morning, helped by a sharp rise in the share price of Standard Life, though gains were limited as investors awaited policy decisions in the UK and Europe.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.1% higher at 6,881 early on.
The index climbed to 6,873.58 by the close on Wednesday, after hitting an intraday high of 6,898.62 during the session - its highest intraday level since the record 6,950.60 set in late December 1999.
Thursday will be a busy day for financial markets worldwide, with a rate of economic data due out, though meetings at the Bank of England (BoE) and European Central Bank (ECB) will be closely watched.
Nevertheless, with analysts widely expecting BoE policymakers from holding off on a interest rate rise for now - markets predict the Bank Rate will remain at 0.5% - the ECB is likely to steal the show amid recent calls for President Mario Draghi to inject stimulus to aid a struggling Eurozone recovery.
Draghi hinted at the Jackson Hole conference last month that inflation expectations were falling and that the ECB would use "all available instruments needed to ensure price stability". However, the ECB President has a "history of disappointing", according to dealer Jonathan Sudaria from Capital Spreads.
"Unfortunately, he has put undue pressure on himself and markets will want to see something concrete at today's ECB press conference. The risk is that just repeating what he said at Jackson Hole may not be enough for traders," Sudaria said.
Labour-market figures from the States will also be in focus, including the ADP employment survey and jobless claims data, as markets await the all-important August US non-farm payrolls report due out on Friday. The US trade balance and ISM non-manufacturing index will also be released on Thursday afternoon.
Standard Life agrees £2.2bn sale of Canadian unit
Standard Life surged 10% after saying that it has agreed to sell its Canadian operations for C$4bn (£2.2bn) to Manulife Financial and would return £1.75bn of this to shareholders. The two companies also made a collaboration agreement in principle for Manulife to distribute Standard Life Investments' products via the Canadian company's network in Canada, the US and Asia.
Budget airline Easyjet was higher after seeing annual traffic pick up slightly in August, with passenger numbers up 8.4% on the year before, compared with the 7.7% increase registered in July.
Balfour Beatty was on the rise after agreeing to sell its US business Parsons Brinckerhoff to Canadian industrial group WSP Global for $1.35bn cash (£0.8bn). The infrastructure group said it would hand £200m back to shareholders.
The 3.7% decline in first-quarter like-for-like sales at fashion retailer Supergroup was not as bad as the 4.5% drop analysts had feared, helping the stock to jump in early deals. The company also reassured the market by highlighting improving trends over the first few weeks of the second quarter.
Centrica was among the worst performers after saying that the negative impact on earnings from a reduction in output at EDF Energy's nuclear power stations is now expected to be at least twice the amount originally estimated. The company expects the outage from the 20%-owned plants to reduce earnings per share by 0.6-0.9p this year, compared with the earlier 0.3p guidance.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Standard Life (SL.) 425.40p +10.18%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,295.00p +2.45%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,670.00p +1.48%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,379.00p +1.10%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 442.70p +0.84%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,086.00p +0.84%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,329.00p +0.83%
BP (BP.) 487.30p +0.73%
Old Mutual (OML) 205.10p +0.64%
Shire Plc (SHP) 4,968.00p +0.59%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,050.00p -2.14%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 172.60p -1.54%
3i Group (III) 388.20p -1.12%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,531.00p -1.00%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,013.00p -0.88%
Experian (EXPN) 1,066.00p -0.84%
Tesco (TSCO) 230.85p -0.75%
Capita (CPI) 1,223.00p -0.73%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 729.00p -0.68%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 653.50p -0.67%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Supergroup (SGP) 1,140.00p +8.99%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 314.80p +4.58%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 2,346.00p +3.21%
Serco Group (SRP) 320.50p +2.46%
Betfair Group (BET) 1,119.00p +2.19%
DCC (DCC) 3,620.00p +1.69%
Zoopla Property Group (WI) (ZPLA) 249.25p +1.63%
Aveva Group (AVV) 2,178.00p +1.59%
Polymetal International (POLY) 532.00p +1.53%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 145.90p +1.39%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Alent (ALNT) 340.40p -3.02%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 168.70p -2.49%
Henderson Group (HGG) 225.60p -2.38%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,213.00p -2.30%
Just Eat (JE.) 291.50p -2.18%
Berendsen (BRSN) 1,056.00p -1.77%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 349.30p -1.58%
Workspace Group (WKP) 627.22p -1.54%
NMC Health (NMC) 473.00p -1.46%
Kennedy Wilson Europe Real Estate (KWE) 1,108.80p -1.44%