London close: Stocks finish higher after tsunami of earnings
London stocks finished just above the waterline on Thursday, after the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold but with two dissenters, and a session which saw investors wading through a tsunami of corporate news and welcomed signs of progress in US-China trade relations.
The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.13% at 7,406.41, and the broader, domestic-focussed FTSE 250 added 1.07% to 20,433.22.
At the same time, the pound was 0.28% weaker against the dollar at $1.2816 and off 0.08% against the euro at €1.1609, after the BoE left interest rates at 0.75% and kept the asset purchase programme unchanged.
However, two of the nine policymakers- Michael Saunders and Jonathan Haskel - voted in favour of lowering interest rates to 0.5%.
“Given the political uncertainty ahead of next month’s election it is not at all surprising that the central bank have decided to refrain from any change in policy,” said David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB.
“The calls from some members for rate cuts come as something of a surprise and has caused an adverse reaction in the pound.”
More broadly, the mood was underpinned by growing hopes over a China-US trade deal after a spokesman from China's Ministry of Commerce said that Beijing and the US had agreed to simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on each other's goods.
“While a final deal could be signed in December rather than November, the plan to begin rolling back tariffs across the phases does show that we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG.
“Unlike the promise of higher agricultural purchases by the Chinese, a roll back in tariffs from each side would be much more positive for the wider economy and less likely to falter due to non-conformity of the agreement.”
On the corporate front, there was a veritable deluge of earnings releases for investors to sink their teeth into.
RSA Insurance Group closed up 3.98% after it said net written premiums for the year to date were flat but underwriting profit was up "strongly".
Bank of Georgia was a high riser, adding 8.88% after well-received third-quarter results, while IMI and Provident Financial were also up after updates, by 7.02% and 2.86% respectively.
Tate & Lyle rose 4.97% after it posted a 45% jump in first-half profit as revenue ticked higher, with the food and beverage solutions division putting in a solid performance.
Marks & Spencer was boosted 5.16% by an upgrade to 'hold' at Societe Generale, while Primark owner Associated British Foods rose 0.37% after an upgrade to 'buy' at Goldman.
Luxury car maker Aston Martin Lagonda broke back into positive territory in the afternoon, closing 1.77% higher after it swung to a third-quarter loss amid "tough" trading conditions.
On the downside, Hiscox tanked 9.72% after JPMorgan downgraded its stance on the shares to 'neutral' and slashed the price target to 1,290p from 1,750p, while SSE was knocked 2.27% lower by a downgrade to 'hold' at Berenberg.
Auto Trader Group slipped into negative territory in the afternoon, closing down 0.33% after the car marketplace reported a rise in first-half profit and revenue and backed its expectations for the year.
Senior suffered by 4.74% after it announced a restructuring programme amid difficulties in its Flexonics and aerospace markets and said revenue in the aerospace division had been lower than expected in the last four months.
BP was down 0.04% and Card Factory lost 0.12% as both of their stocks went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 553.40p 3.98%
Persimmon (PSN) 2,356.00p 3.51%
Evraz (EVR) 385.50p 2.58%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,308.00p 2.50%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,760.00p 2.45%
Informa (INF) 814.40p 2.29%
Admiral Group (ADM) 2,099.00p 2.24%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,396.00p 2.17%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 2,118.00p 2.12%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 8,490.00p 1.86%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hiscox Limited (DI) (HSX) 1,254.00p -9.72%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,942.00p -4.10%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,285.00p -3.42%
Fresnillo (FRES) 683.60p -3.12%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,214.50p -2.92%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 830.40p -2.31%
SSE (SSE) 1,247.50p -2.27%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 6,784.00p -2.14%
British Land Company (BLND) 580.60p -2.02%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 890.40p -1.92%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 1,470.00p 8.73%
IMI (IMI) 1,136.00p 7.02%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 380.00p 7.01%
Elementis (ELM) 174.80p 6.46%
Lancashire Holdings Limited (LRE) 713.50p 5.94%
Hunting (HTG) 438.60p 5.69%
Bodycote (BOY) 815.00p 5.50%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 138.05p 5.34%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 433.80p 5.19%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 191.40p 5.16%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Card Factory (CARD) 165.90p -4.66%
Senior (SNR) 179.20p -4.58%
Beazley (BEZ) 537.00p -3.33%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 773.80p -2.79%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 113.85p -2.44%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 725.50p -2.22%
Contour Global (GLO) 214.00p -1.83%
Assura (AGR) 73.00p -1.62%
Pennon Group (PNN) 876.20p -1.42%
Energean Oil & Gas (ENOG) 901.00p -1.31%