London open: Stocks in the black as Prudential rallies
London stocks edged higher in early trade on Wednesday, recovering from losses in the previous session when investors were lumped with Trump's sacking of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Philip Hammond's spring statement, with a strong performance from Prudential lending a hand.
At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2% to 7,149.86, while the pound was flat against the euro at 1.1270 and down 0.1% versus the dollar at 1.3949. Stocks ended lower on Tuesday after Trump sacked Tillerson, a move that came just days after Gary Cohn’s departure, sparking concerns that the President has lost two key figures when it comes to economic and foreign policy.
Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said: "The UK blew its load on Tuesday economic calendar-wise, leaving the rest of the week looking rather sparse and the FTSE potentially at the mercy of whatever sentiment drifts over from the US."
US retail sales and the producer price index will be in focus at 1230 GMT.
In corporate news, life insurer Prudential was the standout gainer as it announced plans to split off its UK and Europe business and posted a rise in annual profit driven by surging sales at its Asian business.
Funeral and funeral-related services provider Dignity surged following its full-year numbers, as Panmure Gordon said it there could be "substantial" consensus upgrades on the horizon.
Campbell said: "While its 16% surge still leaves the stock a whole £10 per share below where it was before January’s 50% plunge, the sharp shift higher suggests investors are willing to take a punt on the troubled funeral services firm.
"The main catalyst for this growth wasn’t its annual pre-tax profit or revenue numbers – the former was flat, while the latter rose 3% - but the news that Dignity had hired LEK Consulting to develop a plan for the business focused on ‘the relationship between price, service and volume’; a lower cost, ‘more streamlined network operating model’; and efficiency."
Polymetal International edged up after agreeing to sell its 50% stake in the Dolinnoye gold property in Kazakhstan to local miner Altynalmas.
Infrastructure group Balfour Beatty was on the front foot after reporting a big rise in annual profit while Hikma Pharmaceuticals trotted higher after its full-year adjusted operating profit and earnings beat expectations.
Anglo American, Antofagasta and BHP Billiton were all boosted by upgrades at Goldman Sachs, while Inmarsat was lifted by an upgrade to 'hold' at Societe Generale.
On the downside, Morrisons slipped even as it announced a special dividend on top of the supermarket group's annual payout after another year of sales and profits growth.
InterContinental Hotels nudged down after saying it has agreed to buy a majority stake in Regent Hotels and Resorts for $39m in cash, with the right to acquire the remaining 49% interest in a phased manner from 2026.
Specialist landscape products group Marshalls ticked lower even as it posted a jump in full-year profit and revenue and upped its final dividend by 17%, boosted by its recent acquisition of precast concrete manufacturer CPM.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Prudential (PRU) 1,898.00p 3.97%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 938.40p 2.60%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,772.60p 2.37%
Glencore (GLEN) 382.55p 1.55%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,770.00p 1.47%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,454.00p 1.21%
WPP (WPP) 1,171.50p 1.08%
Hammerson (HMSO) 459.90p 0.94%
CRH (CRH) 2,454.00p 0.74%
Informa (INF) 717.80p 0.64%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Kingfisher (KGF) 347.50p -1.86%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 766.10p -1.40%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,873.50p -1.32%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,777.50p -1.11%
BAE Systems (BA.) 574.40p -1.10%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 4,910.00p -0.81%
Halma (HLMA) 1,192.00p -0.67%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 271.80p -0.66%
Croda International (CRDA) 4,550.00p -0.66%
BT Group (BT.A) 225.70p -0.64%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Dignity (DTY) 978.50p 14.71%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 946.80p 8.53%
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 284.50p 2.74%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 988.50p 2.38%
Capita (CPI) 163.75p 2.38%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 388.20p 2.21%
Diploma (DPLM) 1,105.00p 2.13%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 921.00p 1.86%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 784.60p 1.61%
TR Property Inv Trust (TRY) 381.00p 1.60%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Greencore Group (GNC) 120.25p -5.50%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 27.70p -3.68%
Saga (SAGA) 112.40p -3.60%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 486.90p -2.29%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 247.60p -1.75%
Provident Financial (PFG) 925.80p -1.72%
Alfa Financial Software Holdings (ALFA) 361.50p -1.50%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 588.80p -1.37%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 107.10p -1.29%
Card Factory (CARD) 201.60p -1.27%