- FTSE to open 16 points higher
- US markets recover on retail sales data
- Quiet day expected with focus on earnings
City sources predict the FTSE 100 will open 16 points above yesterday's close of 6,766.86, building on Tuesday's modest rise of 10 points late in the session.
Overnight, US markets recovered strongly following a sell-off the day before with stocks registering their best gains of the year so far, despite some slightly weaker-than-expected retail sales data. Sales rose at a month-on-month rate of 0.2% in December, ahead of the 0.1% increase expected by the consensus of analysts. However, November's 0.7% gain was revised lower to 0.4%.
Even so, senior US Economist Paul Dales from Capital Economics said that the sales are "stronger than they look" and paint a strong picture for real consumption at the end of last year. Other economists highlighted the strength seen in the quarterly numbers.
In the UK, today's focus will be more on earnings than economic data, although over in the US attention will turn to the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book. The event will be of particular interest to markets this time around, given that it was at the Fed's last meeting that the US central bank decided to embark on the tapering of its programme of quantitative easing.
Over in Germany, the Federal German statistics office will release its estimate for gross domestic product.
"Whether [yesterday's positive sentiment] can be maintained depends heavily on the economic data, which has been largely disappointing so far this month," Craig Erlam from Alpari UK said.
"I don't think this is anything to be concerned about, but it could be an early warning sign that the recovery may not be quite as strong as we currently expect."
As for the US, he predicts the Beige Book release "should provide further insight into how the Fed view the economic recovery and what this means for tapering going forward". There will also be speeches from Fed members Charles Evans, a Federal Open Market Committee voter, and non-voter Dennis Lockhard.
In this morning's UK company news, stable oil and gas prices and growth in production led to strong revenue and profit growth in 2013, according to a pre-close trading update from Tullow Oil this morning. However, the company did reveal that while it spent $1bn on exploration and appraisal activities during the year, it expects to write off $405m in relation to this expenditure after the plugging and abandoning of some wells.
UK manufacturer Fenner said its revenue and operating profit will be "slightly more" weighted in the second half, reflecting the deferral of customer sales. In a trading update for the period from September 1st to January 14th, the company revealed its results would decline as a result of very strong trading in Australia in the prior year.
Revenue growth slowed very slightly in the third quarter for fashion retailer Burberry, in line with expectations, as it opened five new stores around the globe. The FTSE 100 group generated retail sales of £528m, up 14% on the comparable period the year before, but down down from the 17% growth enjoyed in the first half.
UK housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said it was in a strong position as it entered 2014 as a result of the market recovery, but said it expected to increase housing sites only modestly during the year. Taylor said there was a "meaningful" improvement in market conditions in 2013 after several years of a declining or flat market, underpinned by solid consumer confidence and Government sweeteners such as Help to Buy.
Analysts at SocGen have added shares
of BP to their premium list. easyJet, on the other hand, has been downgraded over at Citi, down to 'neutral' from 'buy'.