ADVFN Morning London Market Report: Thursday 15 March 2018

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London stocks edged higher in early trade on Thursday, although gains were capped by worries about a possible trade war between the US and China.

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At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2% to 7,144.20. The pound was up 0.1% against the dollar at 1.3978 and similar versus the euro at 1.1299.

Overnight, Wall Street lost ground amid renewed worries about a trade war as President Donald Trump looked to impose fresh tariffs on China. According to reports, Trump is looking to levy tariffs on up to $60bn of Chinese imports, with a focus on technology, telecoms and clothing.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at London Capital Group, said: “Investors are growing increasingly nervous as Trump rebuilds a White House team which is more in line with his interventionist approach to foreign policy and as reports surfaced that Trump is looking to put $60 billion of tariffs in imported goods from China, no longer just steel and aluminium. This is expected to be the last straw for China, with retaliation to this latest move almost a given.”

Meanwhile, sterling was holding its head above water, up 0.1% against the euro and the dollar at 1.1304 and 1.3977, respectively despite rising tension between the UK and Russia, amid some encouraging Brexit news.

Brexit Secretary David Davis will go to Brussels on Sunday in what looks like an indication that a deal is imminent, reports Bloomerg, while The Times has seen documents that indicate the UK will be free to sign trade deals during the transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels.

There are no major UK data releases due but in the US, jobless claims, the import price index, NY Empire State manufacturing and the Philly Fed manufacturing survey are all at 1230 GMT.

In corporate news, Old Mutual edged higher as it reported a 22% increase in underlying operating profits to £2bn as the Anglo-South African financial services group continued the process of splitting itself up.

The main drag on the FTSE 350, as often on Thursdays, was from those companies whose stock was going ex-dividend, including Anglo AmericanCrest Nicholson, Domino’s Pizza, Essentra, Galliford TryHammersonLondonMetricMillennium & CopthorneSSPSpirent and Tritax Big Box.

Cineworld gained ground as it posted a 23% jump in full-year pre-tax profit while construction and construction services group Kier was up after reporting a rise in first-half profit and saying it expects double-digit profit growth in 2018.

Retirement products specialist Just Group rallied on the back of a 35% increase in 2017 operating profit and Spirax-Sarco pushed higher on better-than-expected full-year results.

On the downside, Unilever ticked lower as it announced it will base its corporate headquarters to Rotterdam from London as it combines its two classes of shares into a single entity.

Imperial Leather maker PZ Cussons tumbled as it warned that profits this year will be lower than expected amid tough markets in the UK and Nigeria.

Housebuilder Persimmon slipped as it appointed Roger Devlin, currently chairman of pub group Marston’s, as chairman with effect from 1 June. The company announced back in December that chairman Nicholas Wrigley and Jonathan Davie, chairman of the remuneration committee, has resigned amid anger over their failure to cap directors’ earnings under a long-term incentive plan agreed in 2012.

OneSavings Bank was in the red despite posting a 21% jump in full-year profit as the loan book grew and saying it kicked off 2018 with a strong pipeline of new business.

Estate agency Savills was little changed as it said statutory pre-tax profit for 2017 rose 13% but warned that it expects “some tempering of the strong transaction volumes of recent times in some markets”.

In broker note action, Hikma was upgraded to ‘buy’ at Citi and to ‘hold’ at Jefferies, while Tesco was among the top performers after it was lifted to ‘overweight’ at JPMorganHammerson was cut to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse.

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