London midday: Stocks steady in quiet trade; Frasers Group rallies
London stocks were steady by midday on Monday amid quiet trade, with US markets closed for Presidents’ Day and little in the way of corporate news to provide direction.
The FTSE 100 was flat at 8,005.70.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "The FTSE 100 was holding its position above 8,000 on a day somewhat lacking in catalysts thanks to US markets taking a break for the Presidents’ Day holiday.
"Asian stocks were higher as China’s central bank kept rates unchanged for a sixth consecutive month - hopes for a continuing recovery in demand from the world’s second largest economy helped support commodity prices.
"An updated estimate of US GDP for the fourth quarter of 2022, as well as minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting and PMI readings from both sides of the Atlantic dominate the agenda for the remainder of the week.
"The Fed minutes are likely to be closely scrutinised after comments from Fed members suggesting rates could go up 50 basis points in March spooked investors looking for a pivot away from rate hikes altogether."
On home shores, investors were digesting the latest survey from property website Rightmove, which showed that house prices were flat in February.
Prices were steady on the month at £362,452 - up by just £14 - having risen 0.9% in January. It marked the smallest ever increase from January to February and Rightmove said it could be a sign that more sellers "are heeding their agents’ advice to price right first time".
On the year, house prices grew 3.9% in February following a 6.3% jump the month before.
Rightmove said the number of sales being agreed suggests a "softer landing" for the market than many expected.
Tim Bannister Rightmove’s director of property science, said: "The big question this month was whether we would see new sellers increasing their asking prices as has been the yearly norm as we approach the spring selling season. This month’s flat average asking price indicates that many sellers are breaking with tradition and showing unseasonal initial pricing restraint.
"In addition to market conditions demanding greater realism on price, we are transitioning into a slower paced market, where buyers will take longer to find the right property at the right price due to the higher cost of servicing a mortgage. There are other indicators that this will be a softer rather than a hard transition despite the turbulence at the end of 2022.
"Homeowners who are coming to market in the upcoming spring season should use their agent’s expertise and get the price right the first time, which can really help to find the right buyer more quickly."
In equity markets, retailer Frasers Group rallied after saying it was starting an £80m share buyback. Frasers, controlled by Mike Ashley and owner of Sports Direct, said the repurchase would be used to reduce the company’s share capital, adding that it would run until April 30.
Cyber security firm Darktrace also gained after saying it has appointed Ernst & Young to provide an additional independent third-party review of its key financial processes and controls following recent short-seller attacks.
Banks were in the black, with Lloyds and Barclays among the top performers, while miners also performed well, with Anglo and Rio in the FTSE 100 top 10.
On the downside, DS Smith slumped after a rating downgrade at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Frasers Group (FRAS) 791.50p 2.86%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 868.80p 1.78%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 51.72p 1.59%
CRH (CDI) (CRH) 3,956.50p 1.32%
Schroders (SDR) 505.60p 1.30%
Anglo American (AAL) 3,249.00p 1.23%
Barclays (BARC) 175.52p 1.16%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,450.50p 1.01%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 6,164.00p 1.00%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 121.25p 0.87%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 335.50p -5.07%
Centrica (CNA) 102.65p -2.28%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 164.78p -1.47%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RKT) 5,696.00p -1.39%
Smurfit Kappa Group (CDI) (SKG) 3,202.00p -1.08%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,090.00p -0.95%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 111.40p -0.94%
Prudential (PRU) 1,296.50p -0.77%
British Land Company (BLND) 444.50p -0.71%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 2,539.00p -0.70%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Keller Group (KLR) 821.00p 4.19%
Synthomer (SYNT) 157.00p 3.02%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 34.18p 2.21%
Hilton Food Group (HFG) 695.00p 2.21%
Senior (SNR) 154.20p 2.12%
UK Commercial Property Reit Limited (UKCM) 56.30p 1.99%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 146.80p 1.87%
Dr. Martens (DOCS) 154.80p 1.71%
Vietnam Enterprise Investments (DI) (VEIL) 597.00p 1.70%
Darktrace (DARK) 267.10p 1.64%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Indivior (INDV) 1,616.00p -4.09%
Moonpig Group (MOON) 114.70p -3.53%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 1,861.00p -3.12%
Baltic Classifieds Group (BCG) 150.80p -2.71%
Spectris (SXS) 3,151.00p -2.63%
Hammerson (HMSO) 29.70p -2.62%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,709.00p -2.55%
TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 2,530.00p -2.32%
easyJet (EZJ) 494.70p -2.27%
Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 2,835.00p -1.73%