London close: Stocks carve out gains ahead of 'quadruple witching'
London stocks managed to close in the black by midday on Thursday, with a strong showing from the likes of Rolls-Royce and Ashtead lending support.
The FTSE 100 was up 0.16% at 7,027.48, alongside a gain of 0.85% to 23,632.84 for the second-tier index.
But investors were a tad cautious ahead of the quarterly expiry of equity derivatives on Wall Street the next day, an event known as 'quadruple witching', which often results in stock market volatility.
"While it is important not to invest Options Expiry with too much importance, it seems like everyone is avoiding buying the dip before tomorrow," said IG chief market analyst, Chris Beauchamp.
"In addition, the second half of September has proven to be a tough one for markets in recent years, and memories of 2008, 2011 and 2015 cast a long shadow."
On the macroeconomic front, readings on monthly US retail sales and manufacturing activity in the US mid-Atlantic region both came in ahead of forecasts - yet Wall Street remained under pressure.
In equity markets, Ashtead was the standout gainer, rallying after it said its annual performance would beat its previous expectations as the equipment hire company reported a 53% increase in operating profit for the first quarter.
Rolls Royce was higher alongside, boosted by the Aukus defence pact agreed between the US, UK and Australia.
DIY retailer Wickes, which recently demerged from Travis Perkins, traded up after saying it now expects full-year profit towards the upper end of market expectations, as it reported better-than-expected interim profits.
Hilton Food advanced after it increased its interim dividend by 17% as the food packaging company reported a strong first half, driven by its Australian operation.
Drax powered to the top of the FTSE 250 after Barclays hiked its price target by 75% to 960p, implying 120% upside potential. The bank said that since its last update in May 2020, there have been notable improvements to the Drax investment story but little change to the share price.
"We believe the current price is an attractive entry point," it said.
On the downside, Games Workshop was sharply lower as it said trading for the three months to 29 August was in line with the board’s expectations and declared a dividend, but warned over pressure on freight costs and currency exchange rates.
Homewares retailer Dunelm was unchanged as it traded without entitlement to the dividend, while Britvic was knocked lower by a rating downgrade at Deutsche Bank.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Ashtead Group (AHT) 6,162.00p 5.26%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 142.46p 3.89%
Flutter Entertainment (CDI) (FLTR) 15,025.00p 3.84%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 109.00p 3.37%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 2,238.00p 3.04%
Compass Group (CPG) 1,488.50p 2.76%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,276.00p 2.70%
Informa (INF) 526.80p 2.41%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,353.50p 2.27%
Smurfit Kappa Group (CDI) (SKG) 4,185.00p 2.20%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Anglo American (AAL) 2,818.50p -4.57%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 5,010.00p -4.00%
Fresnillo (FRES) 816.40p -3.73%
BHP Group (BHP) 1,968.20p -3.35%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,433.50p -2.22%
Glencore (GLEN) 333.00p -2.17%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,769.00p -2.16%
Evraz (EVR) 597.20p -1.61%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,326.00p -1.38%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 282.70p -1.30%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Drax Group (DRX) 477.00p 8.76%
easyJet (EZJ) 606.60p 7.17%
Hilton Food Group (HFG) 1,150.00p 5.12%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 4,943.00p 4.99%
Reach (RCH) 396.00p 4.21%
Oxford Biomedica (OXB) 1,540.00p 4.19%
Network International Holdings (NETW) 370.00p 3.99%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 1,041.00p 3.58%
Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 224.00p 3.23%
IP Group (IPO) 141.00p 3.22%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 144.40p -4.69%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 330.40p -4.67%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 45.33p -4.43%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 1,443.00p -4.31%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 60.50p -3.51%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 249.40p -3.26%
Morgan Advanced Materials (MGAM) 390.50p -3.10%
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) 325.50p -2.99%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 105.40p -2.77%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 90.66p -2.47%