London close: RBS drags Footsie lower
Not even a dip in sterling was able to offset the drag from RBS's share price drop on the top flight index, but the FTSE 250 fared considerably better, likely in anticipation of fiscal largesse at the next budget on 11 March.
Boosting sentiment, overnight, the World Health Organisation said that the spike in coronavirus cases seen in China on Thursday were not new infections.
Instead, they were days or weeks old and were being picked up now because health officials in that country were casting the net wider - and somewhat less preicsely - by changing how the cases are diagnosed in order to not miss any infections.
"Importantly, the daily growth in Hubei, the top six provinces in China, and the remaining provinces/municipalities/regions are all showing consistent declines in the rate of cumulative confirmed case growth," said Drs Adam Barker and Tara Raveendran at ShoreCap.
Against that backdrop, the FTSE 100 was trading down 0.58% to 7,409.13, while front month Brent crude oil futures advanced 1.14% to $57.0 a barrel on the ICE.
The FTSE 250 meanwhile added 0.54% to 21,790.08, with the likes of Galliford Try changing hands at five-year highs and Dunelm pushing further into record territory.
Nonetheless, investors around the world were wary and were playing it safe heading into the weeekend - just in case.
Indeed, one report published on Friday cited an advisor to the WHO according to whom the number of infections could eventually climb into the billions.
On Thursday, Chinese officials revised the methodology employed to count coronavirus cases to include patients diagnosed with computer tomography or imaging scans, which are less specific than nucleic acid tests but more sensitive.
In the background, in remarks to Reuters, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said that one silver lining to Brexit was that "it’s fertile ground for taking a step back and making bigger changes than otherwise might have been made.
"It’s early days but there are several initiatives - the budget will be telling - that suggest that some of these opportunities are being grasped."
In the States, US retail sales data for January underwhelmed, leaving economists divided as to just how strong a signal to extract from the figures.
Across the Channel, investors were digesting euro area GDP data that according to economists showed that activity all but stalled in the final stretch of 2019.
"In general, weakness in domestic demand appears to have been a general story across the EZ, which is a red flag given sustained weakness in manufacturing and exports," said Claus Vistesen at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
"Note though that this followed a strong performance in Q3, so mean reversion is part of the story. Leading indicators for the domestic economy still look o.k.."
RBS disappoints on dividend, Astra on guidance for core EPS
Royal Bank of Scotland reported a rise in annual profits as it forecast a £200m hit to its personal business from regulatory changes. The bank reported operating profit before tax of £4.23bn for the financial year, up from £3.3bn and declared a final ordinary dividend of 3.0 pence a share with a 5.0 pence special dividend. It also announced that it would change its parent company name from RBS to NatWest Group later this year.
Nonetheless, the final dividend was 1.4p less than expected and the lender's guidance for its payout policy in 2021 was a tad below expectations, analysts at Jefferies said.
It was a similar story over at AstraZeneca.
The drug giant's annual profit fell 14% as rising costs and higher asset writedowns offset sales increases at the pharmaceutical company. Operating profit for the year to the end of December declined to $2.9bn from $3.4bn a year earlier as revenue rose 10% to $24.4bn.
While the results were broadly in-line with expectations - its guidance was not.
Management told investors to expect a mid- to high-teens percentage rate of increase in the outfit's full-year core earnings per share in 2020 fell short of the 20% increase anticipated by the City.
Segro reported a 10.8% rise in its adjusted pre-tax profit in its full-year results on Friday, tp £267.5m, which it said reflected a record year of development completions, high customer retention rates, like-for-like rental growth and a low vacancy rate.
The FTSE 100 property investment and development company said adjusted earnings per share stood at 24.4p for the 12 months ended 31 December, which was up 4.3% over 2018, or 9.9% higher excluding the impact of the SELP performance fee received in 2018.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Informa (INF) 778.20p 2.64%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 996.40p 2.55%
Pearson (PSON) 570.20p 2.48%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 318.40p 2.25%
British Land Company (BLND) 587.80p 2.16%
Next (NXT) 7,128.00p 2.15%
National Grid (NG.) 1,040.00p 2.02%
ITV (ITV) 136.00p 1.95%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 637.80p 1.72%
Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 325.60p 1.65%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 214.40p -6.82%
NMC Health (NMC) 775.00p -5.28%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,300.00p -4.27%
BAE Systems (BA.) 644.20p -2.81%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 56.61p -2.45%
Just Eat Takeaway.Com N.V. (CDI) (JET) 7,800.00p -2.07%
Anglo American (AAL) 2,099.00p -1.81%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,825.00p -1.64%
Glencore (GLEN) 233.95p -1.62%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,902.00p -1.56%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Galliford Try (GFRD) 190.44p 9.22%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 1,402.00p 8.17%
Grainger (GRI) 331.40p 5.21%
Savills (SVS) 1,255.00p 3.97%
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 293.40p 3.90%
Safestore Holdings (SAFE) 854.00p 3.77%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 527.00p 3.72%
Future (FUTR) 1,292.00p 3.04%
Derwent London (DLN) 4,268.00p 2.98%
Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 248.30p 2.82%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Finablr (FIN) 78.40p -5.83%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 421.80p -4.18%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 870.20p -4.16%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 838.20p -3.44%
Hunting (HTG) 306.20p -3.41%
Games Workshop Group (GAW) 6,900.00p -3.16%
Essentra (ESNT) 420.40p -2.78%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 500.00p -2.72%
Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 135.00p -2.60%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 5.27p -2.31%