- FOMC minutes reveal dovish stance
- BoE, economic data in focus today
- M&S, Hays and 888 gain after trading updates
- RBS pays to cancel dividend access share
techMARK 2,751.14 +0.77%
FTSE 100 6,683.98 +0.73%
FTSE 250 16,298.45 +0.83%
UK stocks advanced on Thursday, following a strong performance from US and Asian markets overnight, after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting showed a more dovish stance than expected.
Markets in London were helped by decent gains from the likes of Marks & Spencer, Hays and 888 Holdings after their respective trading updates, and RBS on hopes that the bank can soon resume dividend payments.
The FTSE 100 rose for a second straight day, up 0.8% at 6,684 in early trading.
According to the minutes of the March 18-19th Federal Open Market Committee meeting, policymakers said that the initial rise in interest rates is likely to come later than current forecasts predict. The Fed said several FOMC members thought that the median projection for the federal funds rate in was "overstated".
"The key piece of information that was taken from the minutes was that interest rates are set to stay low for considerable time, put clearly in the minutes in a move to counteract the mistake Janet Yellen made when she put a six-month time frame on the matter at a conference last month," said Sam Fox, Financial Sales Trader at Spreadex.
Markets were largely shrugging off yet more disappointing economic data from China this morning, which showed that both exports and imports unexpectedly slumped last month.
Today will be a busy day in terms of macro events, with a host of industrial production data out in the Eurozone, jobless claims figures from the States and the Bank of England's monetary policy decision.
The UK's Monetary Policy Committee, scheduled to make its announcement at midday, will be closely watched as always though markets do not expect any change in policy, with the Bank Rate likely to remain at 0.5% and the asset purchase programme unchanged at £375bn.
M&S, RBS, Hays and 888 gain
High Street department store Marks & Spencer was higher this morning after stitching together a more encouraging fourth-quarter result, with its troublesome General Merchandise arm reversing its sales decline seen in the preceding quarter. Group sales were up 1.9%, with growth picking up from 1.8% in the third quarter.
Part-nationalised RBS climbed after taking a major step toward its eventual re-privatisation, agreeing to pay £1.5bn to cancel the dividend access share, an agreement that effectively stopped dividend payments to private shareholders. "Today's agreement is a vote of confidence in the progress we have made in rebuilding RBS and in our plan for the bank's future," said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ross McEwan in a late statement last night.
Recruitment firm Hays reported a solid increase in quarterly net fee growth, helped by improved conditions across many of its key markets, leading to increased expectations for full-year profits. Sector peer Michael Page International was also in demand following the statement.
Online gaming company 888 Holdings was on the rise after reporting record quarterly revenue with growth across casino, poker and bingo businesses. First-quarter revenue came to $114m, up 11% year-on-year and 7% on the previous three months.
Utilities group Centrica was among the worst performers after Ofgem fined its business arm £5.6m for errors in its switching and renewal processes.
Cairn Energy fell after saying its Deputy CEO Mike Watts, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jann Brown are stepping down as executive directors of the company.
Meanwhile, pubs group Greene King edged lower after announcing that CFO Matthew Fearn has taken a temporary leave of absence to undergo urgent medical treatment.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,675.00p +2.77%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,984.00p +2.68%
Fresnillo (FRES) 903.50p +2.21%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 465.70p +2.13%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 316.00p +2.00%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,715.00p +1.90%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,460.00p +1.82%
Compass Group (CPG) 925.00p +1.70%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 935.50p +1.68%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,362.00p +1.64%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Mail (RMG) 508.00p -1.36%
G4S (GFS) 246.20p -1.32%
Centrica (CNA) 335.50p -0.62%
SSE (SSE) 1,481.00p -0.34%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,323.00p -0.30%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 818.50p -0.30%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 847.50p -0.29%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 311.40p -0.19%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,068.00p -0.09%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 219.85p -0.07%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Hays (HAS) 154.00p +6.43%
Workspace Group (WKP) 613.00p +3.81%
Evraz (EVR) 85.00p +3.72%
Laird (LRD) 317.50p +3.66%
CSR (CSR) 704.00p +3.53%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 265.60p +3.47%
RPS Group (RPS) 323.50p +3.45%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,205.00p +2.99%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 182.10p +2.36%
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (UDG) 361.20p +2.32%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Oxford Instruments (OXIG) 1,393.00p -2.66%
Computacenter (CCC) 663.50p -1.63%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 928.50p -0.91%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,794.00p -0.91%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,660.00p -0.90%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 168.60p -0.77%
ITE Group (ITE) 198.30p -0.65%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 149.20p -0.53%
Bankers Inv Trust (BNKR) 565.00p -0.53%
BH Global Ltd. GBP
Shares (BHGG) 1,206.00p -0.41%