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ADVFN Morning London Market Report: Monday 19 February 2024

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London open: Stocks nudge lower but Currys surges amid takeover interest


London stocks were just a touch weaker in early trade on Monday, but electricals retailer Currys surged amid takeover interest.

At 0850 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down 0.1% at 7,707.19, with trade expected to remain fairly quiet as US markets will be closed for Presidents’ Day.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The FTSE 100 is on the back foot at the start of the week, weighed down by concerns that interest rates might have to linger for longer in the US, the world’s largest economy. The index was trading flat in early trade as investors found little to boost their mood.

“With a key inflation reading, the producer prices index, coming in hotter than expected on Friday, investor hopes of rapid cuts to interest rates by the Federal Reserve have cooled off, leading to more risk-off sentiment. Friday falls on Wall Street, have prompted wariness in London, with not much cheer emanating from Asia.”

On home shores, data out earlier showed that house prices strengthened in February as mortgage rates continued to fall.

According to Rightmove‘s latest house price index, average new seller prices rose by 0.9% on the month, or 0.1% year-on-year.

It is the first time the annual price change has edged into positive territory after six months of falls.

In January, prices rose 1.3% on the month but fell 0.7% year-on-year.

The average asking price is now £362,839.

Agreed sales in the first six weeks of 2024 jumped 16% on the same period a year earlier. There were also upticks in new listings and buyer enquiries, both up 7% year-on-year.

Tim Bannister, director of property science at Rightmove, said: “Early-bird Boxing Day buyers got a head start in cherry-picking from a record level of new property choice and have now been joined many other buyers also believing that 2024 offers the right market conditions to move.

“Mortgage rates have fallen considerably from their peak and are now remaining broadly stable after the uncertainty of late 2022 and 2023.

“Momentum to move in 2024 is continuing to build.”

However, Rightmove noted that the market remained particularly price-sensitive, with cheaper homes selling more quickly than higher-priced properties.

On average it is taking more than two weeks longer to find a buyer than it was this time last year. Stripping out the pandemic, the average time to sell is its slowest since 2015.

The Bank of England increased the cost of borrowing 14 times as it looked to tackle surging inflation, to 5.25%.

However, it has left rates unchanged since August and most analysts agree the next move will be a cut.

Mortgage rates, meanwhile, soared in response to the government’s disastrous mini Budget in 2022. But they have started to moderate in recent months.

In equity markets, Currys rocketed to the top of the FTSE 100 after US private equity firm Elliott Advisors and Chinese ecommerce giant confirmed they were considering separate bids for the struggling retailer. Currys said it had rejected a £700m proposal from Elliott as it “significantly undervalued” the chain and its future prospects.

AstraZeneca rallied after the US Food and Drug Administration approved a combination of its cancer drug Tagrisso with chemotherapy to treat a type of lung cancer.

SSE was boosted by an upgrade to ‘buy’ at Jefferies.

Moneysupermarket lost ground even as it hailed record full-year revenues following a strong performance from its insurance business.


Top 10 FTSE 100 Risers

Sponsored by Plus500
# Name Change Pct Change Cur Price
1 Astrazeneca Plc +3.31% +334.00 10,428.00
2 Rolls-royce Holdings Plc +2.32% +7.50 330.80
3 Vodafone Group Plc +2.24% +1.47 67.10
4 Sse Plc +1.35% +21.50 1,617.00
5 Bt Group Plc +0.89% +0.95 107.15
6 Barclays Plc +0.59% +0.86 147.58
7 Smurfit Kappa Group Plc +0.55% +18.00 3,266.00
8 Tui Ag +0.54% +3.00 559.00
9 International Consolidated Airlines Group S.a. +0.48% +0.70 146.35
10 Segro Plc +0.42% +3.60 853.00


Top 10 FTSE 100 Fallers

Sponsored by Plus500
# Name Change Pct Change Cur Price
1 Centrica Plc -2.59% -3.60 135.50
2 Anglo American Plc -2.01% -36.20 1,766.00
3 Antofagasta Plc -1.85% -33.00 1,752.00
4 Rentokil Initial Plc -1.85% -7.90 419.90
5 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Plc -1.76% -14.20 794.00
6 Burberry Group Plc -1.72% -23.00 1,315.50
7 Fresnillo Plc -1.66% -8.10 479.40
8 Prudential Plc -1.63% -13.60 820.80
9 Ocado Group Plc -1.57% -8.40 527.60
10 Glencore Plc -1.56% -6.25 393.30


Monday newspaper round-up: Train-leasing firms, oil companies, EDF

Private firms that lease out trains for Britain’s railway have seen their profits treble in a year, with more than £400m paid in dividends, official figures show. The rolling stock companies paid out a total of £409.7m to shareholders and profit margins rose to 41.6% in 2022-23, according to the Office of Rail and Road, as the rest of the railway was told to make swingeing cuts and salaries were frozen. Taxpayer subsidies are still running at twice pre-pandemic levels. – Guardian

The world’s five largest listed oil companies have made profits of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to dramatic increases in energy prices and household bills. The “super-majors” – BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies – have made $281bn (£223bn) since the war began in February 2022, according to Global Witness. – Guardian

The “rogue trader” Nick Leeson has claimed that Mike Ashley’s legal battle against Morgan Stanley exposes what could be the worst “risk management breakdown” since he triggered the collapse of Barings Bank. Mr Leeson, the former derivatives trader behind the collapse of the UK’s oldest merchant bank, said Morgan Stanley would have been “asleep at the wheel” if the court case shows that risks related to nearly €220m (£188m) of Mr Ashley’s trades were allowed to build up over weeks. – Telegraph

Thousands of Britain’s pubs, restaurants and hotels have run out of cash reserves, leaving them in a “perilous state”, according to new research. A joint survey by the hospitality industry’s biggest trade bodies found that a quarter of venues had exhausted their cash, making them “extremely vulnerable to the slightest shock”. – The Times

The government is holding talks with EDF to take control of land at a site in Lancashire as part of plans to roll out mini-nuclear power stations in Britain. Great British Nuclear is in early discussions with the French state-owned energy group over buying land adjacent to its existing nuclear plants at Heysham, with a view to potentially giving the green light for a private developer to build a small modular reactor there. – The Times


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