- FTSE to open around 10 points higher
- Chinese data disappoints
- Morrison posts FY loss
UK stocks are expected to open with small gains today, following a mixed finish in the US, a stable performance in Asia overnight, despite weak data, and ahead of a raft of economic releases due out from the States later on.
City sources predict the FTSE 100 will open 10 points higher than yesterday's close of 6,620.90.
Overnight, China released its industrial production, fixed asset investment and retail sales data for February. Retail sales growth dropped from 13.6% to 11.8%, investment growth was 17.9% year-on-year, while industrial production slowed down from a 9.7% year-on-year in December to 8.6% in January and February.
Capital Economics's Asia Economist, Julian Evans-Pritchard, commented that: "Limited and seasonally-distorted data over the last few weeks have made it difficult to make sense of what's really happening in China's economy. Today's data paint a clearer but broadly downbeat picture, suggesting that slowing credit growth has continued to weigh on economic activity."
However, he went on to say: "Despite this broad evidence of a slowdown, we don't think policymakers will necessarily step in to support growth. At a press conference following the closing of the National People's Congress earlier today, Premier Li said that the scope for using fiscal and monetary policy has become very limited.
"Indeed, an about-turn on deleveraging would only damage China's medium term growth prospects and we expect policymakers to continue to allow investment to slow further."
US stock markets finished in a mixed fashion on Wednesday after a choppy session as investors digested developments in the Ukraine crisis and concerns about economic growth in China.
On the agenda today will be a number of economic reports due out in the US, including Bloomberg consumer confidence, business inventories, continuing claims, import and export price indexes, initial jobless claims, manufacturing inventories, and retail sales.
In other news, the New Zealand central bank overnight raised its interest rates, prompting further strength in the New Zealand dollar. According to Alpari Research, this marks "the beginning of a new chapter for the recovery in the global economy [and] represents the first move by the central bank of a developed nation to raise their interest rates since 2011 and more is on its way according to Governor Graeme Wheeler".
In this morning's company releases, supermarket group WM Morrison said that its highly-anticipated online shopping service is performing ahead of plan, but revealed that it swung to a statutory loss in 2013 after a 'disappointing year'.
The company, which is the fourth-largest grocer in the UK, reported a loss before tax of £176m, compared with a profit of £879m in 2012. On an underlying basis, it recorded a profit before tax of £785m, down 13% year-on-year but broadly in line with analysts' estimates.
Bwin.party said 2013 was a 'challenging year' as the gaming company reported a drop in annual revenues. Total revenue for the year through December came to €652.4m, down from €801.6m in 2012, reflecting regulatory issues including internet service provider (ISP) blocking in Greece and gaming taxes in Germany.
Oil major Royal Dutch Shell has set out plans to turn around its business after a shock profit warning early this year.
European specialist building products supplier SIG reported higher full-year earnings as trading conditions improved and said it is sticking to the outlook given in its January update. FTSE 250-listed SIG said underlying pre-tax profit rose 5.3% to £88.1m for the period ended December 31st and revenue for the year climbed 4.4% to £2.6bn. The final dividend has been increased by 20%.