London midday: FTSE stays down as Mondi, BAE fall on results
Equity markets in London were still lower by midday on Thursday as investors mulled the latest FOMC minutes, with disappointing results from the likes of Mondi and BAE Systems and ex-dividend stocks weighing.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.3% at 7,904.63, underperforming its European peers, with the benchmark Stoxx 600 index up 0.2%.
Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "’Investors are finding it hard to shake off the funk that’s descended over the prospect of interest rates going higher and hanging around for longer. There were few crumbs of comfort from the closely watched minutes of the US Federal Open Markets Committee, with the determination of policymakers to stay tough on inflation clear.
"The data so far might signal that the hot prices are beginning to be tamed, but it is not yet enough reassurance that the spiral is going to come down fast enough to target without more aggressive tightening, albeit at a slower place. The resilience of the US economy is right now considered to be disadvantage, with rate hikes so far proving to be just glancing blows in certain sectors."
On home shores, the latest Distributive Trades Survey from the Confederation of British Industry which showed that retail sales growth stalled in the year to February ahead of an expected decline next month.
The CBI’s reported sales balance rose to +2 from -23 in January.
A balance is the weighted difference between the percentage of retailers reporting an increase and those reporting a decrease.
Martin Sartorius, CBI principal economist, said: "Whilst retail sales volumes were largely unchanged in the year to February and slightly above seasonal norms, firms remain pessimistic about their business outlook and are bracing themselves for yet another fall in sales next month.
"At the upcoming Spring Budget, the Government must take action to tackle the roadblocks in the way of the UK’s economic growth. Retailers are now looking for action in areas like skills and investment. Transforming the Apprenticeship Levy into a ‘Skills Challenge Fund’ and incentivising businesses investment through introducing a successor to the super deduction will be crucial for improving our economic prospects."
On the corporate front, investors were sinking their teeth into a barrage of earnings releases.
Mondi was the worst performer on the FTSE 100 as the paper and packaging group more than doubled full-year profits on higher prices but warned that it continued to see softer demand and pricing, despite input costs declining.
BAE Systems was also in the red despite hailing a record order intake for 2022 and posting a rise in sales and underlying earnings amid an "elevated threat environment".
Drax was sharply lower despite saying it nearly doubled its full-year operating profits even as it continued to invest heavily in the business.
Ex-dividend stocks were a drag, with Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, Land Securities, AstraZeneca, Unilever, Standard Chartered, Redrow, Plus500 and Endeavour Mining all in the frame.
On the upside, aerospace and defence company Rolls-Royce surged as it posted a rise in operating profit as the post-pandemic recovery in international travel continued and said it expected underlying earnings of £0.8-1bn this fiscal year.
Advertising giant WPP gained as it hiked its dividend, said it expects top-line growth of 3-5% for 2023 - ahead of market expectations - and reported a rise in full-year profit and revenue.
Wood Group rocketed after it announced late on Wednesday that it had rejected three unsolicited, preliminary and conditional takeover proposals from Apollo Global Management, the last of which was at 230p per share.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 134.02p 24.53%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 147.80p 3.72%
WPP (WPP) 1,049.00p 3.20%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 163.62p 3.19%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 637.80p 3.17%
Next (NXT) 6,904.00p 2.37%
Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 2,945.00p 1.73%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 182.95p 1.64%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 5,556.00p 1.46%
NATWEST GROUP (NWG) 287.20p 1.27%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Mondi (MNDI) 1,400.50p -5.21%
BAE Systems (BA.) 877.80p -2.68%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 743.80p -2.62%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,634.00p -2.39%
Endeavour Mining (EDV) 1,709.00p -2.06%
GSK (GSK) 1,455.40p -1.78%
BT Group (BT.A) 138.80p -1.46%
Unilever (ULVR) 4,209.00p -1.35%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 99.19p -1.30%
Anglo American (AAL) 3,046.50p -1.26%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 201.50p 30.25%
Genus (GNS) 2,984.00p 10.36%
Morgan Sindall Group (MGNS) 1,760.00p 7.71%
Spectris (SXS) 3,367.00p 7.13%
ASOS (ASC) 848.00p 4.69%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 3,152.00p 4.03%
C&C Group (CDI) (CCR) 151.00p 3.64%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,627.00p 3.63%
W.A.G Payment Solutions (WPS) 80.80p 3.59%
4Imprint Group (FOUR) 4,560.00p 3.40%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Drax Group (DRX) 637.50p -5.42%
BBGI Global Infrastructure S.A. NPV (DI) (BBGI) 145.40p -3.07%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 132.20p -2.36%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,623.50p -2.14%
Supermarket Income Reit (SUPR) 92.80p -2.11%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 188.40p -2.10%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 706.80p -1.48%
UK Commercial Property Reit Limited (UKCM) 53.80p -1.47%
QinetiQ Group (QQ.) 342.20p -1.38%
Hays (HAS) 122.00p -1.29%