1630: Close The FTSE closed at its highest level in five years on Wednesday, after the index extended recent gains by another 21 points. The gains were led by Tullow Oil which rose strongly after posting a four per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits on the back for strong sales and output. However, gains on the top tier index were limited by the number of stocks going ex-dividend, including Sage, Shell and BP. In economic news, the BoE indicated that the financial crisis may have had some impact on the effective supply capacity of the economy. Nevertheless, the MPC continues to judge that the UK economy is set for a sustained, albeit slow, recovery in both demand and effective supply. The FTSE closed at 6,359.
1445: Blackrock has taken its stake in CRH above five per cent. As an aside, Goldman Sachs has also increased its target price on the buildings material group to 1650p from 1600p before. The news flow regarding the US President's call for greater spending on infrastructure may also be giving the shares
a leg-up. The stock now seems to be moving just around an area of technical resistance towards 1,412p. FTSE 100 up 33 to 6,372.
1444: Bumi plc has announced the signature of a heads of terms agreement regarding the separation from the Bakrie Group and PT Bumi Resources Tbk.
1406: The Footsie has held on to gains, trading 11 points higher at 6,349 ahead of the opening bell on Wall Street with US stock futures pointing to a positive start after the retail-sales data. Speaking about the economic figures in an e-mail, Barclays Research analyst Peter Newland said that there is 'clear signal yet of a broad-based pullback in spending on the back of the tax hikes'. He said that while consumer spending growth is likely to weaken quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2013, 'the degree of slowdown will not be so large as to prohibit a rebound in GDP growth'.
1330: US retail sales rose by 0.1 per cent month-on-month in January, as expected. Import prices increased at a 0.6 per cent month-on-month clip, less than the 0.9 per cent gain forecast. FTSE 100 up 12 to 6,351.
1202: Shares of Crest Nicholson are now changing hands at 247p on their first day of trading, significantly above the initial IPO price of 220p. Vodafone's German unit is reportedly in talks to buy Kabel Deutschland, the largest cable television operator in the country. Vodafone has declined to comment on the speculation. Be that as it may, shares of the German outfit have been pushed higher by 9 per cent. FTSE 100 down 5 to 6,333.
1038: Governor King says that the economic road ahead will not be smooth.
MPC remit is inflation stability in medium-term without creating undesirable volatility in output in the short-term, he explains, even if price stability is its primary goal. BoE will add to stimulus if necessary, he adds.
1018: The Italian Treasury has sold approximately 6.6bn euros in medium and long-term debt, with bid-to-cover ratios having fallen in some of those maturities. Italian 10 year bond yields however have dropped by 6 basis points afterwards, to 4.45 per cent.
0939: Shares of Bumi are leading gains now on the FTSE 350. There is the slightest of technical resistance - perhaps - at 450p. Yesterday the stock pierced through 400p although trading volumes were not remarkable. Today the shares have left a 'bullish gap' behind which they may try to 'fill' in the future. Even so, yesterday analysts at JP Morgan had this to say on the company: "Bumi's flagship asset PT Berau enjoyed a solid fourth quarter relative to comparable periods and our expectations, with production hitting guidance, sales running ahead of expectations and strong unit cost performance.Weak coal prices offset the good news, although realised prices were less bad than we had feared (...) however, until clarity emerges on the Bakrie Group/PT Bumi separation we retain our underweight recommendation."
0819: UK stocks have started the session lower with the Footsie weighed down by AstraZeneca, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Sage, all of which go ex-dividend today. IMI is also falling after being downgraded to sell, from neutral, at Swiss broker UBS. On the other side of the ledger Tullow Oil is the largest gainer in early trading, after unveiling a 4% rise in pre-tax profit. Reckitt Benckiser´s ex -pharmaceutical comparable sales gained 6%, well ahead of the forecasts, although the company has indicated that markets remain challenging. Petrofac is being held aloft by an upgrade from UBS to buy, from neutral. The Bank of England will publish the February Inflation Report at 10:30. The main issue for the MPC - and Governor King in particular - is how to manage expectations. Sir Mervyn is likely to want to downplay the possibility of further stimulus, because the inflation outlook doesn't warrant it, but he will also want to avoid a marked rates sell-off and a strengthening in Sterling, as the recovery is not well enough established to withstand a tightening in financial conditions. US stocks finished mixed last night, ahead of Obama´s State of the Union address, but with bank shares at 52 week highs and the Dow Jones Industrial less than 1 per cent off of its best-ever levels, reached back in 2007. FTSE 100 down 13 to 6,325.