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ADVFN Morning London Market Report: Friday 16 February 2024

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London open: Stocks gain as retail sales beat expectations; NatWest in focus


London stocks rose in early trade on Friday after the release of better-than-expected UK retail sales data and well-received results from NatWest.

At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.8% at 7,658.1.

Figures released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed that retail sales rose 3.4% in January following a downwardly-revised 3.3% drop in December, coming in comfortably above economists’ expectations for a 1.5% increase.

Both food and non-food sales strengthened. Food store sales volumes jumped 3.4% over the month, or by 0.6% over the year, recovering from December’s record 3.1% slide. Non-food store sales rose 3%, in contrast to December’s 3.9% fall.

In the three months to January, total sales volumes eased 0.2% on the previous quarter – the smallest decline since August.

Heather Bovill, deputy director for surveys and economic indicators at the ONS, said: “Overall sales have now recovered to pre-December levels, although if we look at the broader picture, they are still below where they were pre-pandemic.

“Sales increased across nearly all retail sectors, and it was a particularly strong month for supermarkets. A fall in prices at the pump also meant a solid month for fuel sales.

“Clothing shops were the only area not to see growth this month.”

Capital Economics said: “Overall, today’s release was stronger than expected and suggests the drag from higher interest rates on consumer spending is fading fast and points to the economy soon moving out of recession. As a result, after a depressing 2023 for retailers, a better year should be in store in 2024.”

In equity markets, NatWest Bank gained as it reported a 20% rise in operating profit and confirmed Paul Thwaite as chief executive on a permanent basis.

NatWest said 2023 pre-tax operating profit came in at £6.17bn, beating the £5.95bn average of analyst forecasts compiled by the bank. Total income rose to £14.7bn from £13.1bn a year earlier.


Top 10 FTSE 100 Risers

Sponsored by Plus500
# Name Change Pct Change Cur Price
1 Antofagasta Plc +2.66% +45.00 1,734.50
2 Centrica Plc +2.53% +3.45 139.65
3 Tui Ag +2.43% +13.00 547.50
4 Standard Chartered Plc +2.27% +13.20 594.00
5 Rio Tinto Plc +2.21% +118.00 5,446.00
6 Anglo American Plc +2.12% +37.40 1,804.40
7 Barclays Plc +1.97% +2.82 146.24
8 Relx Plc +1.90% +63.00 3,377.00
9 Glencore Plc +1.75% +6.85 397.90
10 Ferguson Plc +1.42% +220.00 15,740.00


Top 10 FTSE 100 Fallers

Sponsored by Plus500
# Name Change Pct Change Cur Price
1 Ocado Group Plc -2.04% -11.00 528.00
2 Melrose Industries Plc -1.28% -7.80 603.00
3 Vodafone Group Plc -0.84% -0.56 66.01
4 British American Tobacco Plc -0.66% -16.00 2,406.00
5 Barratt Developments Plc -0.44% -2.10 473.60
6 United Utilities Group Plc -0.43% -4.50 1,036.00
7 Imperial Brands Plc -0.41% -7.50 1,823.00
8 Rolls-royce Holdings Plc -0.37% -1.20 318.80
9 Severn Trent Plc -0.24% -6.00 2,537.00
10 National Grid Plc -0.20% -2.00 1,007.00


US close: Stocks higher following data onslaught

Wall Street stocks closed higher on Thursday as major indices tried to get their recent rally back on track.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.91% at 38,773.12, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.58% to 5,029.73 and the Nasdaq Composite saw out the session 0.30% firmer at 15,906.17.

The Dow closed 348.85 points higher on Thursday, building on gains recorded in the previous session.

Economic data was again the session’s primary focus, with the New York Fed‘s Empire State manufacturing index surging to -2.4 in February from -43.7 in January, well and truly beating market forecasts for a reading of -15.

On another note, factory sector activity in the mid-Atlantic region improved significantly in February, the results of a closely followed survey revealed. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia‘s manufacturing sector gauge jumped from a reading of -10.6 in January to 5.2 for February. Economists had pencilled-in a reading of -8.0.

Elsewhere, Americans reined in their spending unexpectedly at the start of 2024. According to the Department of Commerce, in seasonally adjusted terms, retail sales volumes dropped at a month-on-month pace of 0.8% in January to reach $695.78bn. That was on top of a two-tenths of a percentage point downward revision to the prior month’s month-on-month gain to 0.4%.

Still on data, the US labour market continued to show only limited signs of easing during the previous week. According to the Department of Labor, in seasonally adjusted terms initial unemployment claims dropped by 8,000 over the week ended 10 February to reach 212,000. Economists had forecast a reading of 220,000. The four-week moving average meanwhile jumped by 5,750 to 218,500, while secondary unemployment claims, referencing the week that finished on 3 February, rose by 30,000 to reach 1.895m.

Finally, the National Association of Housebuilder‘s housing market index increased to 48 in February, the highest reading in six months, up from 44 in January to beat forecasts of 46.

In the corporate space, Cisco headed south after the tech giant revealed it would be making a swathe of layoffs and issued some weak forward sales projections, while Tripadvisor traded higher on the back of quarterly numbers that beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines.


Friday newspaper round-up: Housebuilding, BT, Deutsche Bank

Housebuilding in London is “grinding to a halt”, housing associations have warned the government, with the number of affordable homes being built plummeting by three-quarters in the last 12 months. In a letter to the housing secretary, Michael Gove, the G15, which represents the capital’s 11 largest housing associations, said his policies did not go far enough to increase supply and called for an injection of billions of pounds into an affordable homes building programme. – Guardian

The Independent is in talks to take control of BuzzFeed and HuffPost in the UK and Ireland, as part of a “strategic partnership” that aims to boost the fortunes of two strikingly different players in the UK media landscape. BuzzFeed UK was once looked upon with envy by legacy publishers who coveted its reach with younger audiences, but its star has faded after huge losses at its parent company. Free online news publishers are facing a torrid financial time as social networks such as Facebook are no longer sending as many readers, while advertisers are cutting spending. – Guardian

BT has been accused of failing to invest enough money into the UK’s full-fibre broadband network by the boss of a rival telecoms company. Rajiv Datta, chief executive of Nexfibre, which is building its own full-fibre network, accused BT of behaving like a “typical monopoly” by failing to invest quickly enough in the next generation of broadband technology. He said: “When you have somebody that has the dominant market share and has had the benefits of being the incumbent all these years, not investing in that core infrastructure is a typical behaviour of a monopoly.” – Telegraph

Deutsche Bank has become the latest big company to crackdown on working from home, ordering managers back to the office four days a week. The German investment bank, which employs around 6,000 people in London, has told staff they will need to be in the office at least two-thirds of the time. More senior employees will need to be in four days a week. – Telegraph

Global investors turned their backs on so-called ethical funds last year, withdrawing more than $10 billion amid claims of greenwashing. Between 2020 and 2022, investors set aside six times more capital for funds claiming to support companies with high ethical, social and governance (ESG) standards than for traditional equities. But the tide turned on the sector last year, according to data from Calastone. – The Times


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