London midday: FTSE 100 creeps to new highs as miners rally
London stocks had edged a little further still by midday as miners lent a hand, but volumes and news were light as we head into the new year.
The FTSE 100 up 0.2% to 7,631.96, having earlier breached Wednesday’s all-time intra-day high of 7,632.71. The top-flight index ended the previous session at a new high of 7,620.68, with mining companies driving the gains.
Meanwhile, the pound was down 0.1% against the euro at 1.1256 and up 0.3% versus the dollar at 1.3433.
Analyst Henry Croft at Accendo Markets said: “The US dollar extending its sell-off, falling to its lowest level since 1 December, has aided the commodities rally, while growth barometer copper trading a fresh 4-year high has sparked confidence that global economic growth will be broadly positive in 2018."
Croft said some focus amid the holiday-lightened macroeconomic calendar will be UK mortgage approvals data, where expectations are for a rebound from October’s 13-month low but still at lower levels than previous readings in 2017, reflecting a falling trend in official government statistics since July.
A survey released earlier by the British Confederation of Industry showed that manufacturers, service sector companies and retailers reported the sharpest rise in output in two years in December.
The survey of 642 companies across the three sectors showed growth in the private sector in the three months to December rose to a balance of 19% from a balance of 6% in the three months to November and marking its highest reading since December 2015.
Anna Leach, head of economic intelligence at the CBI, said: “Private sector firms are enjoying healthy activity levels, but mediocre expectations for growth underline the ongoing challenges facing companies. Persistent cost pressures will ensure that inflation remains at a high level, perpetuating the squeeze on household spending.”
Also on Thursday, industry figures showed remortgaging fuelled increased mortgage lending in October but businesses were reluctant to borrow amid economic uncertainty.
Gross mortgage borrowing from high street banks was £14.2bn in October - 16% higher than a year earlier, figures from trade association UK Finance showed.
House purchase mortgage approvals of 40,488 were down 3% from October 2016 and were below the recent average though there were more first-time buyers, UK Finance said.
By contrast, remortgage approvals of 34,036 were 37% higher than a year ago and up on the 27,163 average over the past six months.
The Bank of England's clear signal that it would increase interest rates in November triggered a wave of remortgaging activity as borrowers sought to secure ultra-low rates on offer by banks.
UK Finance said: "We expect this [trend] to continue in the short term as our remortgage approvals data shows a large increase of over a third in approvals for October as customers locked in deals ahead of the expected rate rise."
Credit card borrowing increased at an annual rate of 5.1%, slightly weaker than the 5.5% pace a month earlier, as consumers and banks responded to the prospect of higher interest rates and Bank of England warnings about lending. Personal loans and overdrafts fell at an annual rate of 2.7% compared with 2.2% a month earlier, reflecting consumers' increasing use of cards for borrowing.
Mining stocks put in another strong performance as metals prices rallied, with BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American among the top risers.
Elsewhere, Tritax Big Box REIT nudged up as it acquired a national distribution facility at Hickling Road in Cannock, Staffordshire, which is operated and let to Unilever UK for a total consideration of £44.25m.
BGEO Group ticked higher as its real estate subsidiary, m2 Real Estate, signed its first major third-party construction contract, the total value of which is $11.6m.
BT Group fell as its stock went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) 8,885.00p 1.66%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,841.50p 1.11%
Carnival (CCL) 4,931.00p 1.07%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 644.62p 1.04%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,501.00p 1.01%
Glencore (GLEN) 386.95p 0.99%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,538.50p 0.95%
Next (NXT) 4,577.20p 0.93%
Aviva (AV.) 504.50p 0.90%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 242.81p 0.83%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
BT Group (BT.A) 267.85p -2.33%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,859.00p -1.52%
Halma (HLMA) 1,262.00p -0.63%
G4S (GFS) 260.60p -0.53%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 4,979.50p -0.51%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 623.00p -0.48%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 67.47p -0.46%
CRH (CRH) 2,652.00p -0.41%
Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 431.60p -0.39%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 846.50p -0.35%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 263.90p 3.37%
Greggs (GRG) 1,398.00p 2.64%
Vectura Group (VEC) 116.70p 2.37%
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 247.10p 2.11%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 507.98p 1.60%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 381.40p 1.54%
Diploma (DPLM) 1,238.00p 1.39%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 23.25p 1.39%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 249.70p 1.34%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 849.50p 1.31%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
CLS Holdings (CLI) 242.50p -2.34%
Renishaw (RSW) 5,185.00p -1.89%
NewRiver REIT (NRR) 336.10p -1.70%
IWG (IWG) 250.10p -1.69%
QinetiQ Group (QQ.) 232.20p -1.65%
Coats Group (COA) 88.20p -1.62%
Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 1,014.00p -1.46%
Sanne Group (SNN) 793.00p -1.31%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 148.30p -1.20%
Grainger (GRI) 287.60p -1.17%