London midday: Stocks flat as investors mull Powell comments
London stocks had pared earlier losses to trade flat by midday on Wednesday, as investors sifted through a raft of corporate news and continued to mull a hawkish testimony from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.
The FTSE 100 was steady at 7,916.17.
Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "In his testimony before Congress, the Fed chair Jerome Powell indicated that hotter than expected readings of the labour market, business activity and core prices in January show that inflation is proving much stronger than policymakers anticipated when they last met to decide monetary policy.
"Three fresh rate rises in March, May and June now look likely and the chances of a steeper 0.5% hike later this month are increasing if the February jobs snapshot and consumer price data doesn’t show significant signs of cooling. As borrowing costs are set to shoot up yet again, it’ll pile more pressure on consumers and companies.
"It’s adding to worries that the US economy won’t fall like a feather into a mild downturn but slam into a recession."
In equity markets, Hiscox rallied to the top of the FTSE 100 as it said full-year pre-tax profit fell to $44.7m from $190.8m, versus expectations for a loss of $69.2m.
Quilter gained as the wealth manager reported a better-than-expected full-year profit and said investor sentiment was expected to recover this year.
Cyber security firm Darktrace reversed earlier losses despite posting a drop in first-half operating profit and cutting its free cash flow guidance, as new customer additions slowed and it was hit by a jump in employer tax charges.
On the downside, Admiral fell after the insurer cut its full-year dividend as it said profits fell in a "challenging" market.
Legal & General lost ground despite lifting its dividend and posting a jump in full-year operating profit.
Tullow Oil also fell despite saying that annual profits almost doubled as it cashed in on higher oil and gas prices sparked by the war in Ukraine.
Outside the FTSE 350, Wagamama owner Restaurant Group tumbled after announcing plans to cut its leisure estate by around 30% and reporting a widening of its full-year losses.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Hiscox Limited (DI) (HSX) 1,111.00p 3.54%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 157.84p 3.04%
Haleon (HLN) 325.50p 1.70%
Fresnillo (FRES) 720.20p 1.67%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) 7,518.00p 1.26%
NATWEST GROUP (NWG) 291.90p 1.21%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 5,954.00p 1.02%
Kingfisher (KGF) 289.30p 1.01%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 629.60p 0.85%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,604.50p 0.79%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Schroders (SDR) 467.70p -3.57%
Airtel Africa (AAF) 120.90p -2.11%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 260.70p -1.92%
Frasers Group (FRAS) 769.00p -1.91%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 177.75p -1.85%
Unite Group (UTG) 949.00p -1.81%
SEGRO (SGRO) 794.80p -1.76%
St James's Place (STJ) 1,256.50p -1.64%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 496.80p -1.62%
Entain (ENT) 1,377.50p -1.57%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Clarkson (CKN) 3,330.00p 4.39%
Just Group (JUST) 93.95p 3.24%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 323.80p 2.21%
Quilter (QLT) 90.90p 2.04%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 145.60p 1.82%
Diversified Energy Company (DEC) 100.20p 1.62%
Darktrace (DARK) 268.10p 1.59%
Ibstock (IBST) 164.50p 1.36%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 182.90p 1.33%
HarbourVest Global Private Equity Limited A Shs (HVPE) 2,185.00p 1.16%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hill and Smith (HILS) 1,350.00p -4.53%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 286.90p -3.40%
Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 103.40p -3.36%
IP Group (IPO) 59.65p -3.17%
Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 2,835.00p -2.91%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 577.00p -2.86%
Premier Foods (PFD) 123.80p -2.52%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,922.00p -2.50%
888 Holdings (DI) (888) 68.55p -2.42%
National Express Group (NEX) 138.10p -2.40%