London close: FTSE above 7,000 for first time in 14 months
London stocks finished higher on Friday, with the top-flight index trading above 7,000 for the first time since February 2020 as investors mulled encouraging Chinese growth figures.
The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.52% at 7,019.53, and the FTSE 250 was 0.22% firmer at 22,522.18.
Sterling was trading stronger as well, last gaining 0.28% on the dollar to change hands at $1.3826, and advancing 0.21% against the euro to €1.1544.
Sentiment was given a boost earlier in the session by both the solid Chinese data, as well as Thursday's positive retail sales and jobless claims numbers out of the United States.
“The FTSE 100 has ended the week by pushing through the 7,000 level for the first time since February 2020, as more evidence of a strong global recovery has helped boost sentiment heading into the weekend,” said CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael Hewson.
“A big rebound in China first quarter GDP numbers released this morning, as well as a strong retail sales number, has served to add fuel to the fire of optimism that has coursed through global markets this week, in the wake of yesterday's bumper US retail sales number.
“We’ve seen gains in the automotive sector helped by a decent rebound in European car sales in March, but also a strong update from Daimler, which sent the shares to their highest levels in over a year, after reporting a big jump in quarterly earnings helped by a big rebound in China sales.”
That was driven by strong demand for Mercedes cars, Hewson said, helping to push global sales up by 22% to 581,270, with China sales rising 60%.
“Some more positive numbers for US banks have helped give financials a bit of a leg up, with Barclays leading the banks higher.
“High Street retailers Next and JD Sports are also having a good day having only just released positive trading updates in the last week or so.
“Ocado shares are also higher after announcing it was investing £10m into Oxbotica, a company that specialises in software for driverless vehicles, which would be used in and around its warehouses and distribution sites.”
Figures released earlier by the National Bureau of Statistics showed China’s economy bounced back from the pandemic in the first quarter.
GDP growth jumped to a record 18.3% in the first quarter from 6.5% in the final quarter of last year.
The figures came in below expectations for 18.5% growth but marked the best year-on-year growth since records began in 1992.
On a quarter-on-quarter basis, growth was 0.6% in the first quarter, down from an upwardly revised 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and below consensus expectations of 1.4% growth.
"The national economy made a good start," the NBS said.
However, it cautioned that “the Covid-19 epidemic is still spreading globally and the international landscape is complicated with high uncertainties and instabilities”.
Other figures from Beijing showed that retail spending rose 34.2% in March, up from 33.8% in February and above consensus expectations of a 28% increase.
Industrial production growth slowed to 14.1% in March from 35.1% in February, coming in below expectations of 18.0%.
Fixed asset investment growth, meanwhile, slowed to 25.6% in March from 35% the month before and versus consensus of 26% growth.
In equity markets, telecoms company BT closed up 2.52% after JPMorgan Cazenove said the downgrade cycle was now in the past, and that network operator Openreach was the company’s key to a "major" re-rating.
Miners were in the green after the Chinese data, with Antofagasta rising 0.51% and Anglo American adding 1.59%.
Online supermarket Ocado rose 1.87% after saying it was investing £10m in Oxbotica, an autonomous vehicle software company, and has set up a commercial partnership to develop self-driving vehicles.
WH Smith was boosted 1.45% by an upgrade to ‘outperform’ from ‘sector perform’ at RBC Capital Markets, but Dixons Carphone was knocked 1.17% lower by a downgrade to ‘sector perform’ by the same outfit.
RBC said WHSmith's international markets were providing an encouraging precedent for a recovery in UK travel demand and that its relative position should strengthen after the pandemic.
Kainos slumped 3.24% even after the IT provider said results for the year to the end of March 2021 would be at the upper end of consensus after the momentum outlined in its trading update in January was maintained.
“In the absence of a further upgrade today, and after the strong run up the shares had of late, there may be a ‘pause for breath’ moment at this juncture with the potential for some downside pressure,” said analysts at Shore Capital.
TI Fluid Systems slid 3.08% after its largest shareholder, Bain Capital, and outgoing chief executive Bill Kozyra placed 52.4m shares in the company in an accelerated bookbuild to institutional investors.
The shares were placed at 280p each, versus Thursday’s closing price of 308p. Bain placed 52m, while Kozyra placed the rest.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 636.40p 3.65%
BT Group (BT.A) 154.85p 2.86%
Tesco (TSCO) 230.80p 2.83%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,901.00p 2.80%
NATWEST GROUP PLC ORD 100P (NWG) 199.55p 2.73%
Next (NXT) 8,194.00p 2.68%
Barclays (BARC) 189.30p 2.52%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 178.40p 2.21%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,559.50p 2.20%
Flutter Entertainment (CDI) (FLTR) 15,635.00p 2.09%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) 7,702.00p -2.51%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 104.56p -2.28%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 780.00p -1.86%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 2,012.00p -1.85%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,367.00p -1.70%
Rightmove (RMV) 609.20p -1.42%
Just Eat Takeaway.Com N.V. (CDI) (JET) 7,871.00p -1.29%
Prudential (PRU) 1,550.50p -1.27%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,428.00p -1.26%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,412.00p -1.16%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 207.00p 6.15%
Petropavlovsk (POG) 26.42p 5.34%
Syncona Limited NPV (SYNC) 243.00p 4.29%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 2,065.00p 3.25%
Just Group (JUST) 108.10p 2.95%
Redde Northgate (REDD) 354.50p 2.75%
GCP Student Living (DIGS) 177.40p 2.54%
Dr. Martens (DOCS) 494.95p 2.35%
Genuit Group (GEN) 583.00p 2.28%
Elementis (ELM) 135.60p 2.03%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 296.00p -3.90%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 403.60p -3.44%
Trainline (TRN) 474.40p -3.14%
Kainos Group (KNOS) 1,645.00p -3.06%
AO World (AO.) 314.00p -2.97%
National Express Group (NEX) 315.20p -2.96%
Clarkson (CKN) 2,825.00p -2.59%
C&C Group (CDI) (CCR) 282.40p -2.55%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 47.83p -2.53%
Rathbone Brothers (RAT) 1,808.00p -2.27%