London midday: Stocks pare gains as pound ticks up; miners rally as copper prices surge
London stocks had pared gains by midday on Wednesday as the pound ticked up against the greenback, with a strong performance from miners and retailers and a sprinkling of M&A news providing some momentum amid holiday-thinned volumes.
The FTSE 100 was 0.1% firmer at 7,603.12, while the pound was up 0.4% against the dollar at 1.3422 and 0.1% higher versus the euro at 1.1285.
Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said: “This period between Christmas and New Year is often very quiet, with politicians and central banks endeavouring to wrap everything up ahead of the holiday period. With the US having got tax reform over the line last week and kicked the budget issue back to January at the last minute, investors have been left with little to turn their attention to.
“News flow aside, trade during this week is often very thin with large numbers of people taking the week off and the lack of volatility we’ve seen so far isn’t exactly drawing traders back in. With the data calendar not looking particularly full over the coming days, I don’t hold much hope for conditions improving dramatically.”
Heavily-weighted miners were the standout gainers, with Fresnillo, Antofagasta, Glencore and BHP Billiton sitting at the top of the risers as copper prices hit a three-and-half year high amid news that Jiangxi Copper, the largest Chinese producer, has been told to halt production for at least a week before further assessment to combat pollution levels. Prices were also underpinned by expectations of strong demand from China next year.
Retailers were also on the front foot following the Boxing Day sales. Figures revealed that while high street footfall fell compared to last year, online sales surged, helping the likes of Marks & Spencer, Burberry and Sainsburys to gain ground.
FTSE 250 flexible office workspace provider IWG rocketed 28% as it noted recent press speculation and confirmed it has received an indicative proposal from funds managed by affiliates of Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management and Onex Corporation regarding a possible cash offer for the company.
Both Royal Dutch Shell and Barclays were in focus as they updated the market on the impact of the changes to US tax laws that kick in in January, which include a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 21% from 35%.
Barclays edged up after saying that annual pre-tax profit will be hit by a one-off charge of around £1bn, while the oil giant gushed a little higher as it said it expects the potential economic impact to be favourable to it and its US operations.
Business-to-business information company Ascential rallied after announcing the acquisition of e-commerce analytics group Clavis for up to $219m.
Great Portland Estates nudged up as it exchanged contracts to sell 30 Broadwick Street to a client of Savills IM for a headline price of £190m, equating to £186m after deductions for tenant incentives.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,380.00p 2.22%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 982.00p 1.87%
Glencore (GLEN) 382.15p 1.80%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,527.50p 1.77%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,488.50p 1.71%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,805.50p 1.57%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 7,235.00p 1.40%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,782.00p 1.31%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,928.00p 1.22%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 630.00p 1.20%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 843.25p -1.89%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 2,455.00p -1.76%
Ferguson (FERG) 5,340.00p -1.57%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,509.00p -1.50%
Sky (SKY) 1,000.00p -1.48%
ITV (ITV) 163.20p -1.15%
Carnival (CCL) 4,852.80p -1.02%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 233.70p -0.93%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,281.00p -0.93%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 370.20p -0.91%
FTSE 250 - Risers
IWG (IWG) 255.80p 27.77%
Acacia Mining (ACA) 195.60p 3.00%
Ascential (ASCL) 377.70p 2.61%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 205.40p 2.60%
Provident Financial (PFG) 907.50p 2.54%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 252.00p 2.44%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 370.30p 2.38%
Hunting (HTG) 604.50p 2.28%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 832.00p 2.02%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 221.90p 1.98%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 1,644.00p -2.72%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 22.95p -2.51%
RPC Group (RPC) 874.00p -1.91%
Saga (SAGA) 121.50p -1.86%
Pagegroup (PAGE) 462.10p -1.85%
Ibstock (IBST) 260.50p -1.70%
Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 1,021.00p -1.54%
esure Group (ESUR) 254.00p -1.51%
Meggitt (MGGT) 482.60p -1.51%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,550.00p -1.43%