London midday: FTSE edges higher ahead of Powell testimony
London stocks had edged higher by midday on Tuesday as investors eyed a testimony by US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.
The FTSE 100 was up 0.3% at 7,949.74 . At the same time, sterling was 0.3% weaker against the dollar at 1.1990 after Bank of England policymaker Catherine Mann cautioned that the currency could weaken further if investors have not yet fully priced in hawkish comments from the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank.
In an interview on Bloomberg TV, Mann said: "The important question for me with regard to the pound is how much of that existing hawkish tone is already priced into the pound.
"If it's already priced in, then what we see is what we get. But if it's not completely priced in, then there could be depreciation pressure."
Looking ahead to the rest of the day, Powell is due to testify before Congress at 1500 GMT.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "Investors are waiting with bated breath for Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell to appear before the Senate Banking Committee today, eager for any new thoughts on the central bank’s monetary policy and how it will tame inflation.
"Many people believe the Fed will continue to lift rates as the US economy is so far proving to be more resilient than expected under the circumstances. The next rate decision comes on 22 March and the big unknown is whether the Fed will go for a 25 or 50 basis-point hike. The latter would show the central bank is prepared to keep fighting aggressively and may trigger some investors to reconsider their appetite for risk."
On home shores, an industry survey showed that retail sales sparked in February, as consumers splashed out on Valentine’s Day presents.
According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK like-for-like sales rose 4.9% year-on-year, or by 5.2% on a total basis. Within that, like-for-like food sales rose 8.2% while non-food sales increased 2.7%.
In January, sales rose 3.9% on a like-for-like basis and by 4.2% on a total basis.
The three categories that saw the biggest uptick in sales were health and beauty, food, and jewellery and watches.
Elsewhere, the latest survey from Halifax showed that house prices rose in February as mortgage rates fell and consumer confidence improved.
Prices increased 1.1% on the month following a 0.2% rise in January, to £285,476.
On the year, meanwhile, house price growth was unchanged at 2.1% last month. This was the third month in a row that annal growth was unchanged.
The survey showed that the rate of annual growth slowed in all nations and regions during February.
In equity markets, equipment rental firm Ashtead jumped after it said full-year results were set to be ahead of its expectations following a strong third-quarter performance, as it highlighted "robust" end markets.
Wood Group surged after saying it was "minded to reject" a fourth takeover approach from Apollo Global Management at 237p a share as it continues to undervalue the business.
Just Group shot higher as it said full-year underlying profits grew 19%, while Premier Foods gained as the Mr Kipling owner upgraded its full-year profit expectations, pointing to a continued strong performance.
On the downside, Fresnillo lost its shine after the gold and silver miner said profits more than halved in 2022 amid volatility in precious metals prices and increased cost pressures.
Spirent tumbled after it posted a rise in full-year profit and revenue as the order book grew, but cautioned over a more challenging first half of 2023.
Keller fell as the geotechnical engineering company reported a decline in full-year earnings as inflation, higher costs and the war in Ukraine took their toll.
High street baker Greggs was down after it reported a 2% rise in annual profits, as inflation and higher costs hit the bottom line and said like-for-like sales in company-managed shops up was up 18.8% in the first nine weeks of 2023, in line with expectations.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Melrose Industries (MRO) 162.55p 3.60%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 5,944.00p 3.45%
Beazley (BEZ) 630.00p 3.19%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 523.20p 2.31%
Haleon (HLN) 322.25p 1.66%
Auto Trader Group (AUTO) 598.20p 1.25%
Flutter Entertainment (CDI) (FLTR) 14,145.00p 1.22%
Experian (EXPN) 2,860.00p 1.17%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 154.56p 1.17%
Prudential (PRU) 1,278.00p 1.15%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Fresnillo (FRES) 741.20p -2.52%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 518.60p -2.11%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 99.42p -1.78%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,617.50p -1.28%
Glencore (GLEN) 496.25p -1.24%
Endeavour Mining (EDV) 1,722.00p -1.20%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,150.00p -1.15%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 676.40p -1.05%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 2,501.00p -1.03%
British Land Company (BLND) 449.40p -0.93%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 222.00p 14.37%
Premier Foods (PFD) 128.20p 11.48%
Just Group (JUST) 90.10p 10.01%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 296.80p 7.50%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,839.00p 3.46%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 2,836.00p 2.83%
Essentra (ESNT) 225.00p 2.51%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,676.00p 2.44%
Auction Technology Group (ATG) 685.00p 2.39%
Genus (GNS) 3,170.00p 2.26%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Spirent Communications (SPT) 186.10p -11.80%
Keller Group (KLR) 763.00p -5.80%
Clarkson (CKN) 3,210.00p -4.61%
Baltic Classifieds Group (BCG) 152.80p -3.54%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 143.00p -2.92%
Future (FUTR) 1,309.00p -2.75%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,955.00p -2.48%
Rathbones Group (RAT) 2,020.00p -2.42%
Carnival (CCL) 827.80p -1.92%
Hammerson (HMSO) 29.13p -1.82%