London close: Stocks marginally higher after raft of data

London stocks managed to finish just above the waterline on Friday, after a turbulent session, with investors rifling through a raft of positive economic data out of the UK.

The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.01% at 6,938.56, and the FTSE 250 eked out gains of 0.03% to 22,372.26.

Sterling was mixed, meanwhile, last strengthening 0.08% on the dollar to $1.3850, but weakening 0.41% against the euro to €1.1472.

“The week is ending on a more positive note for Wall Street, although European markets continue to struggle,” said IG chief market analyst Chris Beauchamp.

He noted that US services activity was rebounding at a rate not seen for at least 11 years, as the sector purchasing managers’ index hit 62.2.

“The European figures remain strong as well, but without the benefit of fiscal stimulus and a still-struggling vaccine response it is perhaps harder to see whether these parts of the global economy can continue to recover at a similar pace to the US.

“Considering the significant changes expected by the Biden tax hike US stocks are remaining quite resilient, helped along by the continued good news flowing from earnings season.

“So far the reporting period has gone well, and few surprises have appeared to rock the boat.”

Investors were met with a veritable tsunami of economic data earlier in the session, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that UK retail sales leapt 5.4% month-on-month in March, against consensus forecasts for an improvement of 1.5%.

The rise came despite the fact that non-essential stores remained closed until 12 April.

IHS Markit‘s purchasing managers indices for factory and services also came in ahead of forecasts for April, with record levels of optimism for the year ahead “setting the scene for a bumper second quarter for the economy”.

Consultancy GfK, meanwhile, reported an improvement in its UK consumer confidence index, to -15 in April from -16 for March, although shoppers appeared to be “quite tentative” in their return stores, according to Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Public sector net borrowing data for March came in at £28.0bn compared to forecasts for £22.0bn, making for total 2021 fiscal year borrowing of £303.1bn or 14.5% of GDP.

That was the most since WWII, but still well below the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projection for £354.6bn in the March budget.

In equity markets, FirstGroup was up 4.47% after agreeing to sell its First Student and First Transit US bus businesses to EQT Infrastructure for an enterprise value of £3.3bn.

The passenger transport group said it would use £2.19bn of the proceeds to cut debt, pay into its pension schemes and return £365m – or 30p a share – to shareholders during 2021.

On the downside, GlaxoSmithKline lost 0.43% even after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ‘Jemperli’, or dostarlimab-gxly, based on its Biologics License Application.

The pharmaceuticals giant said the indication was given accelerated approval based on tumour response rate and durability of response.

LondonMetric Property was off 0.61% after it sold two long-income assets let to Marks & Spencer and Wickes in Derby, to unnamed buyers for a combined £11.1m.

The sale represented a blended net initial yield of 6% and a 7% surplus to the last reported book value.

One property is an M&S Foodhall, sold by way of a forward commitment to an overseas private investor for £6.2m, and the other a Wickes store, sold to an overseas property company for £4.9m.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,938.56 0.00%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 22,372.26 0.03%
techMARK (TASX) 4,363.09 -0.01%

FTSE 100 – Risers

Flutter Entertainment (CDI) (FLTR) 15,295.00p 2.62%
Evraz (EVR) 646.60p 2.60%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 423.20p 2.44%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 6,119.00p 1.90%
WPP (WPP) 967.40p 1.62%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 42.63p 1.57%
Entain (ENT) 1,694.50p 1.53%
Just Eat Takeaway.Com N.V. (CDI) (JET) 7,994.00p 1.50%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 5,196.00p 1.49%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 4,782.00p 1.49%

FTSE 100 – Fallers

Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 242.20p -2.61%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RKT) 6,654.00p -2.16%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 196.74p -1.88%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,392.00p -1.85%
Fresnillo (FRES) 893.40p -1.67%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 908.80p -1.54%
Tesco (TSCO) 222.55p -1.50%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,565.00p -1.42%
SEGRO (SGRO) 996.00p -1.39%
National Grid (NG.) 903.60p -1.26%

FTSE 250 – Risers

SSP Group (SSPG) 345.30p 5.08%
FirstGroup (FGP) 88.90p 4.47%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 317.40p 4.00%
Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 204.50p 3.60%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 428.60p 2.78%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 257.00p 2.47%
Investec (INVP) 261.50p 2.39%
Elementis (ELM) 140.20p 2.25%
Airtel Africa (AAF) 74.80p 2.04%
Playtech (PTEC) 464.60p 1.98%

FTSE 250 – Fallers

Workspace Group (WKP) 800.50p -4.49%
Beazley (BEZ) 325.80p -3.09%
TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 1,060.00p -2.75%
AO World (AO.) 288.00p -2.71%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 95.72p -2.53%
easyJet (EZJ) 986.40p -2.48%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 194.50p -2.46%
Capita (CPI) 42.92p -2.23%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,836.00p -2.15%
Lancashire Holdings Limited (LRE) 664.00p -2.06%

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