- HSBC China services PMI jumps to 17-month high
- Investors digest weak Eurozone services data, await UK figures
- Ashtead ups full-year view after strong Q1
- Vodafone rises on takeover speculation
techMARK 2,871.10 +0.42%
FTSE 100 6,869.21 +0.59%
FTSE 250 15,990.24 +0.16%
UK stocks were trading at a two-month high on Wednesday morning as investors reacted to upbeat services data from China and continued to speculate about stimulus measures in Europe.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.6% higher at 6,869 in early deals, helped by an upbeat statement from equipment rental firm Ashtead and rumours about a bid for Vodafone.
The index has not surpassed this level in intraday trade since 4 July.
Stocks were helped early on by a big jump in HSBC's Chinese services purchasing managers' index (PMI) to 54.1 in August from a nine-year low of 50 the month before. This meant that the activity in the services sector grew at its fastest pace in 17 months, easing concerns after two separate manufacturing surveys earlier in the week showed that growth had eased last month.
Over in Europe, the services PMI from Spain surged to its highest in nearly eight years, while initial estimates in France and Germany were revised lower. As such, the final August reading of the services PMI for the entire Eurozone was revised down from 53.5 to 53.1, from 54.2 in July.
Stocks have risen in recent sessions on hopes that stimulus measures could possibly be announced by the European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday following a recent spate of gloomy economic indicators. While economists are still divided on whether an new measures will be announced at this month's meeting, Wednesday's weak services data is only likely to add to speculation.
Nevertheless, the PMI from the dominant UK services sector due out at 09:30 will the focal point of the day for London investors in the aftermath of mixed domestic data out earlier in the week from the manufacturing and construction sectors. The August services PMI is predicted to ease back to 58.5 after hitting an eight-month high of 59.1 in July.
Ashtead, Vodafone lead risers early on
Shares in Ashtead jumped after the group said it expects to beat full-year expectations as profits jumped by a third to a record high in its first quarter, helped by strong revenue growth and improving margins. Chief executive Geoff Drabble said that the company "continue[s] to capitalise on recovering markets" and that its US and UK divisions took further market share.
Building materials firm CRH and infrastructure outfits Balfour Beatty and Carillion were also making small gains early on.
Telecoms titan Vodafone was making gains after Japan's Nikkei newspaper suggested that Japanese group Softbank is mulling a takeover of the UK firm.
Heading the other way was Hargreaves Lansdown after its final results showed assets under administration (AuA) were less than consensus expectations. The financial services group lifted AuA up 29% at £46.9bn, versus forecasts of at least £48m.
A number of other blue chips were also lower on Wednesday after going ex-dividend, including BHP Billiton and Glencore. ARM Holdings, Aggreko, TUI Travel and Shire also went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,015.00p +2.89%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,768.00p +2.29%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 372.80p +2.22%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 888.00p +1.83%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 443.50p +1.79%
Barclays (BARC) 226.10p +1.69%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,905.00p +1.47%
Schroders (SDR) 2,488.00p +1.43%
Experian (EXPN) 1,068.00p +1.42%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,364.00p +1.41%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,114.00p -2.19%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,887.00p -1.72%
Fresnillo (FRES) 938.50p -1.47%
TUI Travel (TT.) 369.60p -0.59%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,318.00p -0.53%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,974.00p -0.34%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,557.00p -0.32%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,226.00p -0.32%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 361.60p -0.22%
BAE Systems (BA.) 454.70p -0.13%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Redrow (RDW) 288.70p +3.74%
Aveva Group (AVV) 2,152.00p +3.31%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,089.00p +2.74%
Just Eat (JE.) 276.10p +2.60%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 1,180.00p +2.43%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 2,300.00p +1.64%
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) 117.30p +1.56%
National Express Group (NEX) 261.30p +1.44%
De La Rue (DLAR) 733.00p +1.38%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 709.50p +1.36%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Booker Group (BOK) 126.50p -6.50%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 229.70p -3.24%
John Laing Infrastructure Fund Ltd (JLIF) 117.40p -2.73%
Polymetal International (POLY) 524.00p -1.96%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 855.00p -1.95%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 738.00p -1.86%
Amlin (AML) 444.10p -1.68%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 320.00p -1.57%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 397.10p -1.46%
esure Group (ESUR) 265.00p -1.45%