UK investors are set to return in a fairly upbeat mood after the bank holiday weekend as they gear up for the latest macro data and are expected to shrug off disappointing Chinese economic figures coupled with the ongoing turbulence in Eastern Europe.
City sources predict the FTSE 100 will open around 10 points Friday's close of 6,822.42, tracking modest gains seen in the States last night.
Michael Hewson of CMC Markets, said a combination of mounting violence and unrest in Ukraine at the weekend, combined with a poor Chinese HSBC manufacturing reading put European markets under pressure yesterday.
"The poor Chinese number, in particular is unlikely to assuage concerns about the health, or otherwise of the Chinese economy, as we saw the fourth monthly contraction in succession," he explained.
"Away from China, a breakdown in law and order in certain regions of the Ukraine have prompted rising concerns that Russia might feel compelled to intervene, in the event that the situation spirals completely out of control. For now markets seem to be fairly sanguine about events in the country but the spread of violence into the south west of the country in Odessa suggests the potential for much more unrest in previously unaffected areas, and that would be a major concern."
Meanwhile, Eurozone producer prices fell 0.2% month-on-month during March, according to Eurostat. Versus a year ago they were 1.6% lower. Consensus forecasts had been for a 0.2% decline over the month and 1.7% year-on-year.
On the corporate front, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has said that it remains open to a hostile takeover of AstraZeneca after its sweetened bid for the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker was rejected last week.
After being asked whether Pfizer would take an offer directly to AstraZeneca's shareholders, Chief Executive Ian Read told analysts that the board is "considering all our options on how we progress these discussions".
Meanwhile, Barclays this morning blamed a weak performance in its investment banking arm for a 5% fall in quarterly adjusted pre-tax profit to £1.7bn, although it reported a better performance in its retail and credit card operations.
Aberdeen Asset Management suffered net outflows in the six months to end-March as it completed the acquisition of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, but said it was seeing signs of a pick-up in sentiment towards emerging economies. With £8.8bn of net outflows during the period and £4.5bn of exchange rate
effect more than counterbalancing £3.3bn of market appreciation, assets under management fell from £200.1bn to £190.4bn.
Rexam has completed the sale of the bulk of its Healthcare business as part of the packaging group's restructuring to focus solely on the manufacture of beverage cans. The Pharmaceutical Devices and Prescription Retail Packaging divisions of its Healthcare business, first put up for sale in February, were sold to Montagu Private Equity for $805m.
Estate agent chain Countrywide said momentum in the later stages of 2013 continued into the first quarter of this year with robust growth in revenues and profits across all parts of the group as the recovery in the residential property market continues. Total income jumped 35% to £157.1m in the three-month period to March 31st 2014 from the same period a year earlier. The pipeline going into the second quarter remains positive and it is confident of delivering a financial performance for the year towards the top end of its expectations.
A new Chief Executive Officer has been appointed at the London arm of Lancashire Holdings, Lancashire Insurance Company UK (LUK). Group Chief Underwriting Officer Paul Gregory landed the role after playing a "key role" in the development of LUK. At the same time, Hayley Johnston was promoted to the position of LUK's Chief Underwriting Officer and was also appointed to the FTSE 250 group's board.