- AB Foods jumps on Primark expansion plans
- Stocks rise, but upside limited
- BoE minutes, economic data ahead
- Chinese manufacturing PMI contracts again
techMARK 2,749.64 +0.41%
FTSE 100 6,688.65 +0.10%
FTSE 250 16,067.20 -0.09%
UK stocks edged higher on Wednesday morning with Primark owner Associated British Foods leading the risers as markets extended gains after a surge the day before.
AB Foods' share price jumped strongly this morning after the company announced plans to open its first Primark store in the States, as it rolls out the fast-growing fashion outlet overseas.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.1% higher at 6,689 in early trading today, though upside was limited after a 0.9% gain on Tuesday on the back of heightened M&A activity and bid speculation in the global pharmaceutical sector.
"The gains over the last few days have seen a welcome turn around after the initial weak start to the month, but now as we edge near to the top of recent range, traders are looking hesitant in case sellers emerge again," said Dealer Jonathan Sudaria from Capital Spreadex.
The mood is likely to remain cautious ahead of a host of data and macro-economic announcements during the session, including the minutes of the Bank of England meeting this morning. Figures on UK public finances, a reading on business optimism from the CBI and US housing data will be in focus today, along with any developments in the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
Markets were also reacting to yet another contraction in the Chinese manufacturing sector this month. A private survey out from HSBC and Markit showed the 'flash' reading of the purchasing managers' index for Chinese manufacturing was 48.3 in April, up slightly from 48 in March but still below the key 50-point threshold that separates contraction and growth.
AB Foods jumps on US expansion, results
AB Foods was trading 9% higher after saying that it would open new Primark stores in north-east US. The chain, which already has stores in nine countries in Western Europe, has signed a lease for 70,000 square feet of selling space in Boston and will open the shop towards the end of 2015. Further stores are planned across the wider region through to the middle of 2016.
The company also reported a 4% increase in adjusted pre-tax profits to £468m for the 24 weeks to March 1st, helped by a 26% jump in operating profits at Primark.
Antofagasta was trading firmly in the red this morning after going ex-dividend, meaning that from today new investors won't be able to obtain the company's latest payout. FTSE 100-listed peers Aggreko, BG Group, Centrica, Legal & General, Mondi, Old Mutual and Rolls-Royce were also trading without the rights to their latest dividends this morning.
A number of FTSE 250 stocks were also lower after going ex-dividend, including Hikma, Drax, Kentz and Tullett Prebon.
AstraZeneca was continuing to rise on speculation that US pharmaceutical peer Pfizer could offer as much as £60bn to buy the company, representing the largest foreign takeover of a UK business on record. The stock, which rose 5% yesterday, was making solid gains this morning.
Similarly, GlaxoSmithKline was extending gains after yesterday unveiling a massive three-part deal with Swiss firm Novartis, under which shareholders will receive a £4bn a capital return.
Retail-focused property group Hammerson rose after giving a confident outlook, saying that an improving UK recovery filtered through to demand in the first quarter.
High street sporting goods retailer Sports Direct fell after seeing a slight slowdown in growth in the fourth quarter. The company also warned of "further uncertainty" arising from its decision to cancel a controversial bonus payout to founder Mike Ashley earlier this month.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,970.00p +9.11%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,045.00p +2.15%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,431.00p +2.08%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,195.00p +1.56%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,384.00p +1.54%
Royal Mail (RMG) 529.50p +1.44%
Hammerson (HMSO) 580.50p +1.13%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,274.00p +1.05%
Tesco (TSCO) 295.35p +1.01%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,655.00p +0.91%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Antofagasta (ANTO) 794.00p -5.98%
Centrica (CNA) 330.00p -4.32%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 197.70p -3.14%
Old Mutual (OML) 197.90p -2.99%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 206.70p -2.59%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 964.00p -1.93%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 815.50p -1.75%
Mondi (MNDI) 988.50p -1.54%
Aberdeen Asset (ADN) 437.70p -1.37%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 891.50p -1.00%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Spirent Communications (SPT) 101.60p +5.18%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 180.00p +3.69%
Perform Group (PER) 245.00p +2.94%
Merlin Entertainments (MERL) 359.50p +2.07%
FirstGroup (FGP) 131.00p +1.71%
Polymetal International (POLY) 617.00p +1.48%
SEGRO (SGRO) 349.80p +1.39%
Synthomer (SYNT) 269.80p +1.28%
Caledonia Investments (CLDN) 2,100.00p +1.20%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 53.50p +1.13%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Drax Group (DRX) 689.00p -8.92%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 179.20p -3.97%
Tullett Prebon (TLPR) 300.50p -3.72%
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 289.30p -3.50%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 433.20p -2.65%
Man Group (EMG) 100.50p -2.52%
International Public Partnerships Ltd. (INPP) 126.30p -2.32%
Rathbone Brothers (RAT) 1,967.00p -1.65%
Laird (LRD) 286.60p -1.55%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,900.00p -1.55%