LONDON (SHARECAST) - UK stocks are predicted to open slightly higher this morning on a big day for the markets as investors await a policy decision from the European Central Bank (ECB).
The Footsie is expected to open around 20 points higher than yesterday's close of 5,658.
All eyes are on ECB President Mario Draghi who is expected to reveal details of the bank's bond-buying programme to bring down yields in peripheral nations. According to media reports yesterday afternoon, unnamed central bank officials have said that Draghi will announce unlimited purchases of short-dated government debt (with maturities of up to three years) that will be sterilised, though the ECB would refrain from setting a public cap on yields.
The UK's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will also release its policy decision at noon, though the consensus estimate is for the Bank Rate to be left at 0.5% and the asset purchase programme to be maintained at £375bn.
"With the additional £50bn of QE announced in July not due to be completed until the end of October, we expect no change in policy before November," said analysts at Barclays.
Stocks to watch
Hotels and restaurants group Whitbread saw like-for-like (LFL) sales rise 4.2 per cent year-on-year in the 11 weeks to August 16th. The Costa Coffee chain was the star performer, with LFL sales up 5.7%. The Restaurants business grew LFL sales by 4.9% while the Premier Inn hotels arm's sales were up 3.2% on a LFL basis. In combination, the Hotels & Restaurants business saw LFL sales up 3.8%.
Supermarket chain Morrisons saw like-for-like (LFL) sales decline in the first half of its financial year, which the group attributed to sustained pressure on consumer spending. LFL sales, excluding fuel and VAT, were down 0.9% in the half-year to July 29th from the corresponding period of last year, when LFL sales were up 2.2%.
Workspace provider Regus is to open a business centre in Kigali City, Rwanda, as it expands its footprint in East Africa.Regus has seen a 47% surge in demand for its services in the region and 40% year-on-year growth in enquiries across the continent. Regus already has representation in six other East African nations: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Mauritius and Madagascar.
Analysts at JP Morgan Cazenove have downgraded their recommendation on shares of Johnson Matthey to neutral from overweight.