London midday: Stocks steady as some analysts sound hopeful note on coronavirus
Stocks have recovered from an early dip after the World Health Organisation said overnight that the spike in coronavirus cases in China on Thursday are not new infections.
Instead, they are days or weeks old and are being picked up now because health officials in that country are casting the net wider - and somewhat less preicsely - by changing how the cases are diagnosed in order to not miss any infections.
"Importantly, the daily growth in Hubei, the top six provinces in China, and the remaining provinces/municipalities/regions are all showing consistent declines in the rate of cumulative confirmed case growth," said Drs Adam Barker and Tara Raveendran at ShoreCap.
Against that backdrop, as of noon, the FTSE 100 was trading 0.12% higher to 7,461.05, while front month Brent crude oil futures were advancing 1.45% to $57.17 a barrel on the ICE.
The FTSE 250 meanwhile was adding 0.24% to 21,726.34.
Nonetheless, there was a palpable sense of concern among observers, with one report citing an advisor to the WHO according to whom the number of infections could eventually climb into the billions.
On Thursday, Chinese officials revised the methodology employed to count coronavirus cases to include patients diagnosed with computer tomography or imaging scans, which are less specific than nucleic acid tests but more sensitive.
In the background, in remarks to Reuters, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said that one silver lining to Brexit was that "it’s fertile ground for taking a step back and making bigger changes than otherwise might have been made.
"It’s early days but there are several initiatives - the budget will be telling - that suggest that some of these opportunities are being grasped."
In the States on the other hand, investors were waiting on key reports for retail sales in January, at 1330 GMT, and consumer confidence in early February, at 1500 GMT.
Across the Channel, investors were digesting euro area GDP data that according to economists showed that activity all but stalled in the final stretch of 2019.
"In general, weakness in domestic demand appears to have been a general story across the EZ, which is a red flag given sustained weakness in manufacturing and exports," said Claus Vistesen at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
"Note though that this followed a strong performance in Q3, so mean reversion is part of the story. Leading indicators for the domestic economy still look o.k.."
RBS disappoints on dividend, Astra on guidance for core EPS
Royal Bank of Scotland reported a rise in annual profits as it forecast a £200m hit to its personal business from regulatory changes. The bank reported operating profit before tax of £4.23bn for the financial year, up from £3.3bn and declared a final ordinary dividend of 3.0 pence a share with a 5.0 pence special dividend. It also announced that it would change its parent company name from RBS to NatWest Group later this year.
Nonetheless, the final dividend was 1.4p less than expected and the lender's guidance for its payout policy in 2021 was a tad below expectations, analysts at Jefferies said.
It was a similar story over at AstraZeneca.
The drug giant's annual profit fell 14% as rising costs and higher asset writedowns offset sales increases at the pharmaceutical company. Operating profit for the year to the end of December declined to $2.9bn from $3.4bn a year earlier as revenue rose 10% to $24.4bn.
While the results were broadly in-line with expectations - its guidance was not.
Management told investors to expect a mid- to high-teens percentage rate of increase in the outfit's full-year core earnings per share in 2020 fell short of the 20% increase anticipated by the City.
Segro reported a 10.8% rise in its adjusted pre-tax profit in its full-year results on Friday, tp £267.5m, which it said reflected a record year of development completions, high customer retention rates, like-for-like rental growth and a low vacancy rate.
The FTSE 100 property investment and development company said adjusted earnings per share stood at 24.4p for the 12 months ended 31 December, which was up 4.3% over 2018, or 9.9% higher excluding the impact of the SELP performance fee received in 2018.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Pearson (PSON) 569.80p 2.41%
Informa (INF) 776.20p 2.37%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 683.20p 2.37%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 317.60p 1.99%
ITV (ITV) 135.90p 1.87%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,895.50p 1.80%
Next (NXT) 7,098.00p 1.72%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 182.10p 1.70%
Tesco (TSCO) 256.30p 1.67%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 638.40p 1.53%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 210.00p -8.18%
NMC Health (NMC) 784.60p -4.11%
Just Eat Takeaway.Com N.V. (CDI) (JET) 7,795.00p -2.13%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,169.50p -1.14%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 57.37p -1.14%
Barclays (BARC) 174.52p -1.02%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,772.00p -1.00%
Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) 8,482.00p -0.96%
Glencore (GLEN) 235.95p -0.78%
Aveva Group (AVV) 5,275.00p -0.75%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 1,359.00p 4.70%
Future (FUTR) 1,300.00p 4.00%
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 292.80p 3.68%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 180.42p 3.48%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 45.64p 3.12%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 525.00p 2.74%
Grainger (GRI) 323.20p 2.60%
Safestore Holdings (SAFE) 841.00p 2.19%
Dixons Carphone (DC.) 141.30p 1.95%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,692.00p 1.87%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
PPHE Hotel Group Ltd (PPH) 2,040.00p -2.86%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 842.60p -2.75%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 883.40p -2.71%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 501.40p -2.45%
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 235.00p -2.29%
Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 136.20p -1.73%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 187.90p -1.73%
Rank Group (RNK) 318.50p -1.70%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 134.35p -1.50%
FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 1,008.00p -1.37%