London open: Stocks nudge higher; easyJet, Ascential surge
London stocks were just a touch higher in early trade on Wednesday, but easyJet and Ascential surged after upbeat updates.
At 0845 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.1% at 7,762.08.
Data released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed that factory gate inflation in the UK slowed in the year to December.
Producer input prices rose 16.5%, down from 18% in November, and 20.2% in the year to October.
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The falling costs of parts, equipment and fuel prices are all helping, and the overall trend is encouraging, showing inflation is heading in a downwards direction.
"But it’s clear that producers are still grappling with the high cost of doing business while attempting to keep a lid on price increases for customers."
Elsewhere, the latest retail industry research showed that footfall saw strong growth during 2022, although it remains below pre-pandemic levels.
According to retail consultancy Springboard, footfall fell 14.2% in 2022 compared to 2019. Within that, high streets saw a 16.9% decline and shopping centres a 18.8% slide. Footfall eased 3.7% in retail parks.
Compared to 2021, overall footfall sparked 42%, with a 51.2% jump on high streets, a 52% increase in shopping centres and a 11.7% improvement in retail parks. However, while 2022 was the first restriction-free year since the start of the pandemic, in 2021 the UK was in lockdown for the first four months of the year with all bar essential retail closed.
Online spending habits also shifted in 2022, Springboard noted. In February 2021, 65% of clothes and footwear spending was carried out online, compared to 20.5% in January 2020. But by the end of 2022, just 24.9% of clothes and footwear spending happened online.
Springboard said footfall throughout 2022 had been in line with its forecasts, and marked a "slow but steady" post-pandemic recovery for retail destinations.
In equity markets, budget airline easyJet flew higher after saying it expects to beat full-year profit expectations, as it narrowed losses in the first quarter and forward bookings into the summer surged. British Airways and Iberia owner IAG was the standout gainer on the FTSE 100, while Wizz Air also rose.
Insurer Aviva was in the black after it maintained its dividend guidance and capital returns outlook for the year.
Ascential racked up strong gains after saying that full-year revenues and adjusted EBITDA were set to be ahead of market expectations, and announcing the separation of its digital assets.
JD Wetherspoon was a little lower after it reported a jump in first-half sales, although they remain below pre-pandemic levels.
In broker note action, Entain was knocked lower by a downgrade to ‘neutral’ at Exane, while Experian fell after a downgrade to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse.
Dr Martens was hit by a downgrade to ‘hold’ at HSBC, while Direct Line was trading off after a downgrade to ‘hold’ at Berenberg.
Darktrace was boosted by an upgrade to 'overweight' at Morgan Stanley.
FTSE 100 - Risers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 172.32p 3.61%
Aviva (AV.) 451.70p 2.36%
BAE Systems (BA.) 868.20p 1.07%
CRH (CDI) (CRH) 3,687.50p 1.03%
Frasers Group (FRAS) 768.00p 0.92%
Kingfisher (KGF) 265.50p 0.91%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 112.36p 0.86%
Tesco (TSCO) 246.00p 0.86%
Beazley (BEZ) 651.00p 0.77%
WPP (WPP) 944.60p 0.75%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Entain (ENT) 1,538.00p -1.38%
Experian (EXPN) 2,922.00p -1.35%
Fresnillo (FRES) 866.80p -1.34%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,061.00p -1.05%
Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 757.40p -1.02%
BT Group (BT.A) 130.15p -0.69%
Convatec Group (CTEC) 242.00p -0.66%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 2,042.00p -0.63%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,136.50p -0.61%
F&C Investment Trust (FCIT) 943.00p -0.53%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ascential (ASCL) 255.80p 22.98%
easyJet (EZJ) 515.20p 10.09%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 3,104.00p 7.40%
Darktrace (DARK) 263.80p 6.11%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 37.54p 3.25%
Warehouse Reit (WHR) 109.80p 2.23%
Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited NPV (SONG) 86.80p 2.12%
Big Yellow Group (BYG) 1,194.00p 1.96%
Watches of Switzerland Group (WOSG) 940.00p 1.79%
ASOS (ASC) 781.50p 1.69%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 170.00p -2.30%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 468.20p -2.25%
Trainline (TRN) 305.30p -2.12%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 164.70p -1.70%
National Express Group (NEX) 136.00p -1.45%
Diversified Energy Company (DEC) 117.00p -1.35%
Dr. Martens (DOCS) 137.30p -1.22%
Carnival (CCL) 776.00p -1.20%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 174.05p -1.05%
Alliance Trust (ATST) 995.00p -0.90%