London open: Stocks edge higher as investors eye jobs data, Fed
London stocks edged higher in early trade and the pound bounced back from losses as investors awaited the release of key UK jobs data and looked to the Federal Reserve’s latest policy announcement.
At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2% to 7,374.59.
Spreadex’s Connor Campbell said: “Considering they could have spent the day fretting over this evening’s potentially rate-hiking Federal Reserve meeting, there certainly is a lot for investors to deal with before Yellen and co. reveal the fruits of their latest get-together."
“Things kick off this morning with the month’s UK jobs report, with wage growth once again in focus thanks to inflation’s recent climb. Worryingly the reading is set to drop from 2.6% to 2.4%, marking the second month of contraction. That news likely won’t be welcomed by the pound, especially since it has opened in a good mood, recovering 0.6% from the dollar (pushing it back above 1.22) and 0.3% from the euro.”
Campbell added that after January’s huge drop in claimant count change, the figure is expected to have crept up by 3.2k in February, while the unemployment rate should remain unchanged at 4.8% for the fifth month in a row.
The data is due at 0930 GMT.
After that, the main focus will be on the Federal Reserve’s policy announcement, which is due after the London close at 1800 GMT. With a 25-basis points rate hike priced in, investors will be turning their attention to the ‘dot plot’ for future rate hike projections.
Capital Economics said: “The Fed will hike by 25 basis points today, citing the tightening labour market as the key reason to press ahead with the process of policy normalisation. We think the case for adding an extra dot to the plot for both this year and next is powerful. But we think policymakers will prefer to wait for more data on the labour market and a degree of clarity on the likely path of fiscal policy before shifting the rate forecasts."
“By June, we think they will have enough information. Today, though, we expect the Fed to re-affirm its forecast for three hikes both this year and next.”
In corporate news, AstraZeneca ticked up after saying results from the Phase 3 trial of its ovarian cancer treatment Lynparza had demonstrated a “significant improvement in progression-free survival” (PFS).
Hikma Pharmaceuticals rallied after it nudged its dividend higher as operating profits were held back last year due to a combination of lower profits from the generics business, greater investment in growth and currency effects.
Sports Direct shares were little changed after the company said a report about its chief executive-to-average employee pay was “fake news”.
Polymetal pushed up after it posted a 79% increase in full-year earnings, while Lloyds Banking Group edged higher as the government reduced its stake in the bank to below 3% overnight.
Specialist landscape products group Marshalls surged after it reported a 31% jump in full-year profit thanks to an improvement in operating margins.
Glencore was boosted by an upgrade to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral’ by Goldman Sachs.
LondonMetric Property nudged lower after selling three retail parks in Christchurch, Bedford and Maidstone for a collected £60.9m.
Playtech fell on news that its founder has agreed to sell a 4.1% stake in the company.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,267.00p 6.63%
Glencore (GLEN) 322.85p 2.15%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,385.50p 2.13%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,205.00p 2.12%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 804.50p 2.03%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 909.50p 1.73%
Prudential (PRU) 1,742.50p 1.60%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,464.00p 1.46%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,290.50p 1.22%
BP (BP.) 462.05p 1.11%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Capita (CPI) 558.50p -1.41%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 747.50p -1.12%
Persimmon (PSN) 2,075.00p -1.05%
easyJet (EZJ) 985.00p -0.96%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,145.00p -0.95%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 327.60p -0.88%
ITV (ITV) 205.50p -0.82%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 3,849.50p -0.77%
Provident Financial (PFG) 2,922.00p -0.71%
Old Mutual (OML) 224.10p -0.62%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Marshalls (MSLH) 335.30p 6.01%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 243.10p 3.76%
Amec Foster Wheeler (AMFW) 525.50p 2.84%
IP Group (IPO) 153.90p 2.60%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 735.00p 2.58%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 153.60p 2.40%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 833.00p 2.27%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 918.00p 2.11%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,130.00p 2.08%
Countryside Properties (CSP) 236.40p 1.90%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
AA (AA.) 251.00p -2.11%
Card Factory (CARD) 278.00p -2.04%
CMC Markets (CMCX) 129.50p -2.04%
Playtech (PTEC) 889.50p -2.04%
PayPoint (PAY) 972.00p -1.22%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 630.50p -1.18%
Carillion (CLLN) 221.00p -1.12%
McCarthy & Stone (MCS) 194.80p -1.07%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 253.60p -1.01%
Aggreko (AGK) 895.00p -1.00%