London midday: Stocks flat as investors eye spring statement, US inflation
London stocks were flat by midday on Tuesday, with investors reluctant to make any big bets either way ahead of Chancellor Philip Hammond's spring statement and the latest inflation reading from across the pond.
The FTSE 100 was steady at 7,212.16, having been just a touch weaker earlier, while the pound was down 0.2% versus the euro at 1.1255 and 0.1% lower against the greenback at 1.3890.
There will be no spending or tax announcements in the statement, due at 1230 GMT, so the main focus is likely to be on the updated Office for Budget Responsibility economic and public spending forecasts, with the OBR expected to adjust down its target for UK government borrowing by at least £10bn.
Rabobank said Hammond was likely to be on his feet for no more than 20 minutes, with the focus firmly on the need to reduce government debt, which stands at a "worrying" 86.5% of GDP in the UK.
Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said: "While the Chancellor might not have any surprises lined up, it appears that investors are unwilling to make any movements without getting a gauge of how the UK economy is holding up in the current pre-Brexit limbo."
The US consumer price index for February, due at 1230 GMT, will also garner some attention as investors continue to keep an eye on inflation prospects as they try to gauge whether the Federal Reserve will hike rates three or four times this year.
Before that though, market participants mulled over the latest report from the OECD, which suggested the UK economy will grow at a slower pace than any other major advanced or emerging nation this year. Although it lifted its UK growth forecast for 2018 to 1.3% from 1.2%, this is still the weakest in the G20. This will come as the world economy expands at its fastest rate since 2011, with the OECD upping its global growth forecast to 3.9% for this year and the next from 3.6% previously.
In corporate news, interdealer broker TP ICAP tumbled as its full-year adjusted results fell short of consensus, while Computacenter fell sharply as it posted a 23% jump in full-year pre-tax profit but said the growth outlook for 2018 remains challenging.
Irish food company Greencore tanked after it issued a profit and said chief executive Patrick Coveney will spend half his time in the US as part of a restructuring.
Retirement specialist Just Group was down as it said deputy chairman Tom Cross Brown will retire at the next annual general meeting in May.
FTSE 250 merchant bank Close Brothers retreated even as it posted a 6% jump in first-half adjusted operating profit thanks to a good performance across its businesses.
Legal & General Group edged lower after announcing that its Legal & General Capital division has acquired the 52.1% of CALA Homes which it did not previously own.
Anglo American was in the red as production at the company's Minas-Rio mine in Brazil was halted due to a ruptured slurry pipeline, while Cairn Energy dipped despite saying it swung to a profit last year.
On the upside, Antofagasta gained as it increased its dividend 177% for last year as cash flow surged, though the Chilean copper miner is facing strike action at its Los Pelambres mine.
Engineer GKN was the standout gainer on the FTSE 100, however, after it rejected a sweetened offer from turnaround specialist Melrose Industries a day earlier. Melrose was also in the black.
In broker note action, Barclays was added to Deutsche Bank's short-term 'buy' list, while LondonMetric Property was raised to 'equalweight' at Morgan Stanley.
Direct Line was cut to 'hold' from 'buy' by Deutsche Bank and industrial flow-control equipment maker Rotork was downgraded to 'sell' at Investec.
FTSE 100 - Risers
GKN (GKN) 437.40p 3.14%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 905.80p 2.03%
Hammerson (HMSO) 460.50p 1.43%
Glencore (GLEN) 374.12p 1.37%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 6,064.00p 1.30%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 2,016.00p 0.93%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,746.00p 0.86%
Ferguson (FERG) 5,296.00p 0.84%
Kingfisher (KGF) 354.00p 0.83%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,620.00p 0.78%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 385.80p -1.88%
St James's Place (STJ) 1,132.00p -1.57%
WPP (WPP) 1,179.00p -1.34%
3i Group (III) 911.20p -1.28%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,209.00p -1.26%
BAE Systems (BA.) 589.40p -1.21%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 2,523.14p -1.17%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 503.60p -1.14%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 242.70p -0.98%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,965.50p -0.93%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Melrose Industries (MRO) 219.80p 2.95%
Aggreko (AGK) 740.20p 2.95%
Senior (SNR) 308.20p 2.32%
Polymetal International (POLY) 788.40p 2.20%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 777.90p 2.09%
LondonMetric Property (LMP) 187.05p 1.93%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 192.05p 1.80%
IG Group Holdings (IGG) 811.50p 1.44%
Workspace Group (WKP) 984.00p 1.39%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 505.60p 1.38%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Greencore Group (GNC) 130.81p -28.36%
Computacenter (CCC) 1,034.00p -8.33%
TP ICAP (TCAP) 499.10p -7.47%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 393.35p -3.99%
Capita (CPI) 164.45p -3.69%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 374.70p -3.15%
Britvic (BVIC) 698.50p -2.78%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,034.90p -2.74%
Essentra (ESNT) 488.00p -2.40%
Nex Group (NXG) 661.00p -2.29%