- Markets at highest since January 22nd
- UK labour-market data due out, BoE minutes
- Sports Direct, M&S, BAE Systems lead the upside
- Ex-div stocks weigh
techMARK 2,878.02 -0.14%
FTSE 100 6,798.45 +0.03%
FTSE 250 16,340.79 -0.01%
UK stocks opened more or less flat on Wednesday morning after the FTSE 100 rose to four-week high the previous session, with investors awaiting UK economic data and minutes from the Bank of England's (BoE) latest meeting.
The FTSE 100 was rangebound early on, little changed from Tuesday's closing price of 6,796.43, its highest close since January 22nd.
A number of key macro indicators are due out this morning, including average weekly earnings, jobless claims and the UK unemployment rate - the latter is expected to have remained stable at 7.1% in the three months to December.
Analysts at Danske Bank said that the unemployment data "has become less important" in the aftermath of the BoE's revamped forward guidance plan set out last week, which weakened the link between monetary policy and the jobless rate.
The figures come after Tuesday's revelation that the annual rate of consumer price inflation unexpectedly fell to 1.9% in January - this was the first time price rises were running below the BoE's 2% target since November 2009.
Meanwhile, minutes from the February 5-6th BoE meeting are due out later on, at which the Monetary Policy Committee left interest rates at their current record-low level for the 59th month in a row.
Over in the States, markets will be focusing on a list of figures from the US housing market, including mortgage applications, building permits and housing starts.
Sports Direct jumps after Q3 update
Sports retailer Sports Direct International rose strongly this morning after reporting that group sales in the third quarter to January 26th rose 11.2% year-on-year to £655.4m. Gross profit gained 14.6% to £280.7m during the period with growth across all its divisions including Sports Retail, Brands and Premium Lifestyle.
High Street peer Marks & Spencer was also higher after analysts at Jefferies upgraded their rating on the stock from 'hold' to 'buy' and hiked their target price from 480p to 600p. They said that M&S is "one of the cheapest stocks in our sector, yet offers one of the highest total shareholder returns".
Defence company BAE systems advanced after saying it has finally signed a price escalation agreement with the Saudi Arabia government over the supply of Typhoon fighter jets to the country.
Leading the downside were a number of stocks that went ex-dividend, including Barclays, AstraZeneca, Reckitt Benckiser, Carnival and GlaxoSmithKline.
International paper and packaging group Mondi edged higher after saying it expects underlying profits for 2013 to be above the €574m reported in 2012.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sports Direct International (SPD) 752.00p +5.03%
Fresnillo (FRES) 991.50p +2.43%
BAE Systems (BA.) 446.00p +1.92%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 505.00p +1.75%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 992.00p +1.59%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,848.00p +1.42%
Tesco (TSCO) 334.25p +1.38%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,049.00p +1.35%
Diageo (DGE) 1,894.50p +1.26%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,417.00p +1.14%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
AstraZeneca (AZN) 3,975.50p -2.86%
Carnival (CCL) 2,474.00p -1.90%
Barclays (BARC) 257.40p -1.49%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 81.39p -1.35%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,921.00p -1.28%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,735.00p -1.03%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 445.50p -0.98%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,574.50p -0.79%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,678.00p -0.74%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,175.00p -0.52%
FTSE 250 - Risers
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 274.80p +2.31%
Merlin Entertainments (MERL) 377.30p +2.28%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 423.70p +2.10%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 1,189.00p +1.89%
Pace (PIC) 426.60p +1.74%
Alent (ALNT) 329.90p +1.51%
Henderson Group (HGG) 241.90p +1.43%
Perform Group (PER) 220.00p +1.38%
Premier Farnell (PFL) 226.20p +1.34%
Morgan Advanced Materials (MGAM) 334.10p +1.24%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Catlin Group Ltd. (CGL) 533.00p -4.05%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,876.00p -2.48%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,325.00p -2.21%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,120.00p -2.18%
Rank Group (RNK) 147.20p -1.87%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 841.00p -1.75%
Evraz (EVR) 84.35p -1.63%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 678.00p -1.60%
Xaar (XAR) 1,073.00p -1.56%
Law Debenture Corp. (LWDB) 544.00p -1.45%