National Grid reports fall in interim profit, Premier Oil production at top end of forecasts
The FTSE 100 is expected to open six points lower on Thursday, having closed down 0.19% at 7,351.21 on Wednesday.
Stocks to watch
BHP said it had appointed Mike Henry as its next chief executive, succeeding Andrew Mackenzie who was retiring at the end of the year. Henry runs the mining giant's iron ore, coal and copper mines in Australia, and would start his new job in January, BHP said in a statement on Thursday.
AstraZeneca, alongside its partner MSD, announced on Thursday that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted a new drug application and granted ‘Priority Review’ status for ‘selumetinib’ as a potential new medicine for paediatric patients aged three years and older with neurofibromatosis type 1 and symptomatic, inoperable plexiform neurofibromas. The FTSE 100 pharmaceutical giant said it was the first acceptance of a regulatory submission for an oral monotherapy for the treatment of neurofibromatosis type 1, which it described as a rare and incurable genetic condition.
National Grid reported a 23% decline in interim profit before tax to £404m after revenue edged 1% lower to £6.29bn. This slight reduction in turnover was driven by a 4% drop in sales from the energy transmission and distribution company's US operations to £3.89bn. However, the company said it expected a good full year performance from its US business following the agreement of a number of regulatory filings, while its operations in the UK business remained on track to deliver continued outperformance.
Premier Oil said it expected full year production to be at the upper end of expectations as summer maintenance programmes were completed successfully and production returned to previous levels. The company now said it expected production to be at the top end of a 75,000 – 80,000 barrel (boepd) guidance range. Production for the year to October 31 averaged 79.4k boepd for the period, underpinned by continued group operating efficiency of 94%.
The top 1% of earners in the UK now account for more than a third of income tax paid to the government, following changes over the past decade that have left almost half the population exempt from making payments. In research underlining the dual nature of Britain’s income tax structure, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said above-inflation increases in the personal allowance to £12,500 a year meant 42% of adults paid no income tax. – Guardian
One year after a former Facebook manager accused the company of having “a black people problem” – failing its black employees by allowing the proliferation of a hostile workplace culture — an anonymous group of tech workers at the social media giant have penned a letter in which they argue that the problem has only metastasized. “Racism, discrimination, bias, and aggression do not come from the big moments,” they write. “It’s in the small actions that mount up over time and build into a culture where we are only meant to be seen as quotas, but never heard, never acknowledged, never recognized, and never accepted.” – Guardian
Saudi Aramco will splash out nearly £200m on a global marketing blitz next year, as the richest company in the world steps out from the shadows and tries to elevate its public profile. The oil behemoth's huge advertising push will follow its long-awaited flotation next month when it starts trading publicly on the Saudi stock exchange. Aramco's gushing marketing bill will eclipse even the annual budgets of big advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Sky, which spent £186.5m and £124.2m respectively last year. – Telegraph
Investors trapped in Neil Woodford’s stricken investment fund face losses of at least £1 billion from the liquidation of his portfolio. Assets in the Equity Income Fund are valued at about £3 billion, but analysis by PJT Park Hill, one of the firms that is winding it down, shows that investors are expected to suffer losses of 32.5 per cent from its liquidation. – The Times
The Barclay family’s online retail business has raised half of the funding it required to plug a £150 million hole caused by a surge in mis-selling claims. Shop Direct said yesterday that £75 million would be injected by the end of this month from its parent company. – The Times
US stocks finished mixed on Wednesday, as market participants digested Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell's testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.33% at 27,783.59 and the S&P 500 eked out gains of 0.07% to 3,094.04, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.05% to 8,482.10.
At the open, the Dow was 16.21 points softer as investors seemed somewhat disappointed by comments overnight from Donald Trump regarding a potential resolution to America and China's protracted trade war.
“The markets were underwhelmed by the update from President Trump yesterday, hence why stocks are in the red," said David Madden of CMC Markets.
Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Washington and Beijing had reached an impasse in talks, as the US remained undecided about whether it would remove existing tariffs on Chinese exports or simply cancel those duties which had been set to come into effect on 15 December.
Later in the session, however, Fed chair Jerome Powell began his testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
In the central bank head's prepared remarks, which were released ahead of time, Powell said the baseline outlook for the economy remained favourable, helped by the Fed's three quarter-point rate cuts from July through October.