London open: Stocks gain on China stimulus; NMC bucks trend
London stocks rose in early trade on Monday as investors welcomed signs that Chinese authorities are prepared to boost stimulus measures to support the virus-hit economy.
At 0840 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.5% at 7,448.19.
Earlier, the People’s Bank of China cut the interest rate on its medium-term loans.
London Capital Group analyst Jasper Lawler said: "The number of new coronavirus cases has gone up in China but new stimulus measures from the Chinese central bank is putting investors at ease. The PBOC has cut ‘medium term’ rates in order to minimise the likely strain on the economy from the coronavirus. That will benefit around $29bn in Chinese loans. This tells us a cut in the loan-prime rate (LPR) rate is coming on Thursday too."
Monday’s session was expected to be a little quieter than usual, with US markets closed for Presidents Day.
On home shores, the latest survey from Rightmove showed that asking prices for UK houses rose 0.8% on the month in February, just £40 shy of a new all-time high as a boom in buyer activity outstripped a rise in the number of new sellers.
On the year, prices were up 2.9% in February and Rightmove said "the buyer boom" had set the scene for new price records this spring.
Rightmove director and housing market analyst Miles Shipside said: "The average price of newly-marketed property is just £40 below its all-time high from June 2018, with the typically busy spring market still to come. This means that spring buyers are likely to be faced with the highest average asking prices ever seen in Britain.
"Buyers who had been hesitating and waiting for the greater political certainty following the election outcome may be paying a higher price, but they can now jump into the spring market with renewed confidence. After three and a half years of Brexit uncertainty, dither, and delay, many now seem to have the 2020 vision that this is the year to satisfy their pent-up housing needs."
On the corporate front, Jupiter Fund Management was a high riser as it confirmed it had made a £370m takeover offer for Merian Global Investors.
Cairn Energy rallied after announcing a new oil discovery on the Saasken exploration prospect offshore Mexico.
On the downside, NMC Health was the standout loser on the FTSE 100 after Indian billionaire BR Shetty resigned as a director and co-chair of the Middle East healthcare firm with immediate effect as the fallout from unreported share transactions at the company continued.
Chief investment officer Hani Buttikhi and non-executive director Abdulrahman Basaddiq also quit given their connections to Shetty and other major shareholders who had appointed them to the board. Mark Tompkins will continue as the sole chairman, the company said.
Packaging business DS Smith was in the red as its chief financial officer Adrian Marsh was set to leave the company to become CFO of bookmaker William Hill.
Meggitt was knocked lower by a downgrade to ‘neutral’ at Citi, IMI was weaker after a downgrade to ‘underperform’ at Credit Suisse and Avast was dented by a downgrade to ‘reduce’ at Erste Group.
Tullow Oil gushed lower after saying that the Marina-1 exploration well, drilled off the coast of Peru, did not discover significant hydrocarbons. Tullow holds a 35% interest in the well.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 392.80p 1.89%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 4,867.50p 1.85%
Auto Trader Group (AUTO) 599.20p 1.73%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 241.20p 1.56%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,715.50p 1.54%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 881.00p 1.50%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,953.60p 1.38%
Barclays (BARC) 178.26p 1.33%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,681.00p 1.32%
BP (BP.) 462.65p 1.27%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
NMC Health (NMC) 751.00p -3.10%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 358.60p -2.00%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,150.00p -1.41%
SEGRO (SGRO) 924.20p -1.16%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,805.20p -1.08%
BAE Systems (BA.) 638.20p -0.78%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,264.50p -0.63%
Aveva Group (AVV) 5,255.00p -0.57%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 990.40p -0.54%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,884.00p -0.48%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 431.30p 8.72%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 187.80p 5.21%
Vivo Energy (VVO) 112.40p 4.07%
PureTech Health (PRTC) 334.00p 3.73%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 510.60p 3.15%
Hunting (HTG) 315.00p 2.87%
Helios Towers (HTWS) 145.30p 2.32%
Playtech (PTEC) 347.00p 2.30%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 819.20p 2.14%
Premier Oil (PMO) 106.20p 1.92%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 5.00p -5.21%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 43.29p -4.31%
Finablr (FIN) 75.50p -3.70%
IMI (IMI) 1,064.00p -2.83%
Games Workshop Group (GAW) 6,785.00p -1.67%
Pennon Group (PNN) 1,154.50p -1.62%
Pantheon International (PIN) 2,475.00p -1.59%
Softcat (SCT) 1,243.00p -1.19%
Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 245.90p -0.97%
Avast (AVST) 446.00p -0.89%