- FTSE 100 set for best close since March 12th
- Markets track gains on US, Asian indices
- Standard Life, Phoenix agree on Ignis deal
- Lloyds drops after government sale
techMARK 2,793.31 +0.70%
FTSE 100 6,620.06 +0.23%
FTSE 250 16,264.06 +0.69%
UK stocks edged higher on Wednesday morning with markets trading at levels not seen in two weeks, following a decent performance from US and Asian indices overnight.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.2% higher at 6,620 early on, following a 1.3% surge on Tuesday. The index is set to close at its highest level since March 12th when it closed at 6,620.9.
Stocks on Wall Street and in Asia rose after figures showed a bigger-than-expected increase in US consumer confidence in March.
"The consumer confidence figure jumped to a six-year high, boosting sentiment and leaving many to believe that the US economy is still firmly on track to hit targets," said Chief Market Analyst James Hughes from Alpari.
"Overall the economic calendar is looking a little light [today] so it could well be yesterday's numbers that cause the initial market moves," he said before the open.
A lack of newsflow surrounding Crimea may have also been behind the positive moves in London this morning. The world's top industrial powers removed Russia from the G8 on Monday as they met in The Hague, saying they are ready to "intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation".
Standard Life, Phoenix gain on Ignis deal
Standard Life and Phoenix Group were higher this morning after agreeing on a deal to sell the latter's Ignis Asset Management division for £390m. Standard Life said that acquisition will enhance earnings from the first full year of ownership, while Phoenix estimates that the disposal will help to reduce gearing levels.
Electricity provider SSE was in demand after unveiling plans to complete major disposals, freeze its household energy prices until 2016 and cut 500 jobs, as it confirmed results for 2013 would be broadly in line with expectations.
Also higher was tour operator TUI Travel, which said it traded well this winter with holiday programmes now almost fully sold and average selling prices up across the sector.
Banking stocks were heavy fallers this morning with state-backed lender Lloyds leading the decline after the government sold another tranches of its stake.
The agency that oversees the government's stake in the bank, UK Financial Investments, said the sale reduced the Treasury's shareholding to about 24.9% from 32.7%. The disposal was made at a price of 75.5p per share, compared with last night's closing price of 79.11p.
Part-nationalised peer Royal Bank of Scotland was also in the red this morning, along with Barclays.
A number of heavyweight stocks were trading lower after going ex-dividend, including BSkyB, Smiths Group, Bovis Homes, Devro, Countrywide, Ladbrokes, Prudential, Schroders and SEGRO.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Standard Life (SL.) 392.00p +4.87%
William Hill (WMH) 349.30p +2.95%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 215.60p +2.91%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,441.00p +2.49%
Aviva (AV.) 491.60p +2.18%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 86.05p +1.82%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 409.80p +1.76%
SSE (SSE) 1,523.00p +1.67%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,718.00p +1.54%
Fresnillo (FRES) 889.50p +1.54%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 75.95p -3.99%
Centrica (CNA) 326.40p -1.83%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 913.00p -1.56%
Schroders (SDR) 2,570.00p -1.46%
Royal Mail (RMG) 558.50p -1.24%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 304.10p -1.20%
Barclays (BARC) 235.00p -0.82%
National Grid (NG.) 814.50p -0.49%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,282.00p -0.47%
Prudential (PRU) 1,326.00p -0.41%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 142.00p +4.03%
Bellway (BWY) 1,664.00p +3.55%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 735.00p +3.52%
Savills (SVS) 662.50p +3.03%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 180.50p +3.03%
Homeserve (HSV) 316.80p +2.79%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 189.00p +2.77%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 165.20p +2.67%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 439.30p +2.59%
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 127.60p +2.49%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
EnQuest (ENQ) 137.10p -4.92%
Man Group (EMG) 99.10p -3.79%
SEGRO (SGRO) 331.70p -2.47%
Evraz (EVR) 66.10p -2.29%
Perform Group (PER) 239.50p -2.24%
IP Group (IPO) 205.80p -2.09%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,325.00p -1.44%
John Laing Fund Ltd (JLIF) 115.00p -1.12%
Countrywide (CWD) 667.50p -1.11%
Drax Group (DRX) 747.00p -0.66%