London pre-open: Stocks seen down on weak US, Asian cues
London stocks were set to fall at the open on Thursday following downbeat sessions in the US and Asia, as investors mull disappointing Chinese data and the latest UK house price figures.
The FTSE 100 was called to open 29 points lower at 7,486.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: "In October Chinese import data broke a run of 10 consecutive negative months by rising 3% in a sign that perhaps domestic demand is returning, beating forecasts of a 5% decline.
"Slightly more worrying was a bigger than expected decline in exports which fell 6.4%, the sixth month in a row they’ve been lower, and a worrying portend that global demand remains weak, and unlikely to pick up soon.
"Today’s November numbers have seen imports decline by 0.6%, against an expectation of a rise to 3.9% in a sign that domestic demand is still very weak, while exports improved, rising by 0.5% a solid pick up from the 6.4% decline in October."
On home shores, figures from Halifax showed that house prices rose 0.5% on the month in November following a 1.2% jump the month before. This marked the second monthly increase in a row after six consecutive declines and leaves the price of a home at £283,615.
On a yearly basis, prices were down 1% in November, following a 3.1% drop in October.
Kim Kinnaird, director of Halifax Mortgages, said: "The resilience seen in house prices during 2023 continues to be underpinned by a shortage of properties available, rather than any significant strengthening of buyer demand. That said, recent figures for mortgage approvals suggest a slight uptick in activity levels, which is likely as a result of an improving picture on affordability for homebuyers. With mortgage rates starting to ease slightly, this may be leading to increased buyer confidence, seeing people more inclined to push ahead with their home purchases.
"However, the economic conditions remain uncertain, making it hard to assess the extent to which market activity will be maintained. Other pressures - like inflation, the broader cost of living, overall employment rates and affordability - mean we expect to see downward pressure on house prices into next year."
In corporate news, Sports Direct owner Frasers Group posted an 8% rise in interim profits, driven by a strong jump in sales at its international division.
The company posted pre-tax profits of £310m for the six months to October 29. Retail revenue was up 4% to £2.68bn, with international retail sales up 13.2% to £645.8m.
It added that strong trading momentum continued into the early weeks of the second half “especially at Sports Direct”.
"We are looking forward to our Christmas trading period and remain confident of achieving adjusted profit before tax in the range £500m-£550m," Frasers said.
Mining giant BHP Group announced a major executive leadership team reshuffle, with four people stepping into new roles, including its chief financial officer (CFO).
The changes, which will take place in March 2024, "ensure that we continue to build organisational capacity, with the right mix of skills, experience and perspectives to deliver BHP's strategy and pursue our growth agenda," said chief executive Mike Henry.
Vandita Pant, currently chief commercial officer, will replace CFO David Lamont who will remain as a senior executive officer in an advisory and projects capacity until 2025. Pant joined BHP in 2016 and was previously group treasurer and head of European operations.