London midday: Stocks go flat ahead of US data releases
Shares prices had gone flat by midday tracking the move deeper into the red by US equity futures.
The US S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite had both notched up fresh record highs the night before.
Even a flat result to the session for the FTSE 100 and S&P 500 would still see them finish the month with gains of roughly 4% and 6% each.
So heading into the long weekend, at noon the FTSE 100 was down 0.14% to 6,951.99, while the second-tier index was down by an identical percentage at 22,360.81.
Futures on the S&P 500 had moved lower still and were down by 25.75 points at 4,177.75.
On a more positive note, Nationwide reported earlier that UK house prices jumped at a month-on-month pace of 2.1% in April to reach £238,831 - the biggest increase since February 2004.
That pushed the year-on-year rate of increase from 5.7% to 7.1% (consensus: 5.1%) and according to Nationwide's chief economist, Richard Gardner, double-digit gains were possible in coming months.
However, a sharp drop in activity at the end of 2021 was a possibility should unemployment rise as many economists anticipated, Gardner added.
In the background, and dampening the mood from the start of the session, were mixed readings on China's manufacturing sector in April.
The 'official' Chinese factory Purchasing Managers Index fell from 51.9 from March to 51.1 in April (consensus: 51.8), amid supply bottlenecks that forced firms to draw down their inventories to meet demand from the US.
On the Continent meanwhile, preliminary readings for first quarter gross domestic growth in German and Spain undershot forecasts, partially offset by a big beat in France.
Still ahead and likely key for the second half of Friday's session, investors in the US were waiting on data releases including a reading on personal incomes and spending for March at 1330 BST.
It would be followed by reports on factory activity in the Chicago area (1445 BST) and consumer confidence (1600 BST), with both reports referencing the months of April.
Profit-taking in Barclays shares on cautious outlook
UK bank Barclays on Friday said first quarter profits had more than doubled, but cautioned that its outlook remained uncertain due to the Coviud-19 pandemic. The lender posted a better-than-expected pre-tax profit before tax for the three months to March 31 of ended March 31 of £2.4bn, up from £923m pounds a year (consensus: £1.76bn). Unlike sector peers Lloyds and NatWest, Barclays did not release any cash set aside to cover potential bad loans from the pandemic. To take note of, Richard Hunter at Interactive Investor pointed out how Barclays shares had already run up 71% over the 12 months preceding Friday's results.
AstraZeneca said it expected performance to improve as the drugs company reported "robust" revenue growth for the first quarter. Revenue increased 15% to $7.3bn in the three months to the end of March, or by 11% excluding currency movements. At constant currency and excluding the Covid-19 vaccine revenue rose 7% to $7.05bn. The company reiterated its full-year guidance and predicted a "performance acceleration" in the second half.
Smurfit Kappa reported first quarter corrugated volume growth of around 7% in both Europe and the Americas in its first quarter on Friday. The packaging giant said containerboard prices had increased in the quarter, and again at the start of the second quarter, as a result of strong demand and higher recovered fibre and other costs.
Hikma Pharmaceuticals said it made a good start to 2021 and that annual revenue from generic treatments would be at the top of guidance. The drugs company said its injectables business was performing well with product launches and general demand in the US partly offsetting reduced demand for Covid-19 related products and the gradual return of elective surgeries.
Valve and instrumentation maker Rotork said first quarter performance continued to improve in line with expectations despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Revenue was up mid-single digits year-on-year on an organic constant currency basis, in part reflecting the weighting of first half 2020 sales to the second quarter.
FTSE 100 - Risers
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,642.00p 3.26%
Smurfit Kappa Group (CDI) (SKG) 3,694.00p 3.23%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,509.00p 2.76%
M&G (MNG) 217.10p 2.55%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,415.00p 1.95%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,672.00p 1.83%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 103.68p 1.63%
BAE Systems (BA.) 505.40p 1.63%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,695.50p 1.62%
National Grid (NG.) 902.30p 1.12%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Barclays (BARC) 176.56p -6.18%
Flutter Entertainment (CDI) (FLTR) 14,990.00p -2.28%
Anglo American (AAL) 3,068.50p -2.28%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,920.00p -2.09%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,157.00p -1.60%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 419.00p -1.53%
Glencore (GLEN) 295.30p -1.52%
Aveva Group (AVV) 3,494.00p -1.50%
Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 1,259.50p -1.49%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,956.00p -1.46%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Indivior (INDV) 148.60p 3.99%
Diversified Gas & Oil (DGOC) 122.60p 3.55%
Meggitt (MGGT) 465.10p 2.96%
Just Group (JUST) 107.50p 2.76%
JTC (JTC) 645.00p 2.22%
Dr. Martens (DOCS) 480.00p 2.18%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 242.50p 2.11%
Clarkson (CKN) 2,985.00p 2.05%
Liontrust Asset Management (LIO) 1,614.00p 2.02%
Airtel Africa (AAF) 75.35p 1.69%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 985.00p -4.37%
888 Holdings (888) 420.60p -2.69%
Dixons Carphone (DC.) 138.80p -2.66%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 119.20p -2.63%
Carnival (CCL) 1,656.40p -2.62%
Elementis (ELM) 147.30p -2.52%
Rotork (ROR) 348.00p -2.25%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 429.80p -2.05%
Baillie Gifford US Growth Trust (USA) 330.50p -1.93%
AO World (AO.) 275.40p -1.92%