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LONDON MARKET CLOSE: Risk-off mood prevails but FTSE 100 outperforms

5th Apr 2023 17:01

(Alliance News) - Stocks in London closed largely lower on Wednesday, while the FTSE 100 ended in the green thanks to a solid performance from utility and pharmaceutical stocks.

"Appetite for risk is slowly decreasing, taking a break from the sharp bull run that started last week, while investors wait for further macro developments," said Pierre Veyret at ActivTrades.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 28.42 points, or 0.4% at 7,662.94 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 ended down 213.62 points, or 1.1%, at 18,601.42, and the AIM All-Share closed down 6.53 points, or 0.8%, at 803.69.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.2% at 765.65, the Cboe UK 250 closed down 1.8% at 16,137.00, and the Cboe Small Companies ended marginally lower at 13,349.60.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2471 at the London equities close Wednesday, down from USD1.2501 at the close on Tuesday.

In the FTSE 100, RS Group dropped 6.2%, making it the worst blue-chip performer at the close on Wednesday.

For the year ended March 31, the industrial and electronics products distributor said it saw 10% like-for-like revenue growth. For the fourth quarter alone, group like-for-like revenue improved 1% on-year, but slowed from 8% growth in the third quarter.

Consequently, Chief Financial Officer David Egan said that the firm anticipates full year adjusted operating profit to be "slightly ahead of consensus expectations."

RS said adjusted operating profit consensus stands at GBP382.0 million, which, if achieved, would represent growth of 19% from GBP320.4 million the prior year.

AstraZeneca climbed 2.8% after it announced it received positive results from interim analysis of the DUO-O phase 3 trial of its Imfinzi drug.

The pharmaceutical company said the analysis showed that a combination of Imfinzi, alongside Lynparza, chemotherapy and bevacizumab met its primary endpoint.

It showed a "statistically significant and clinically meaningful" improvement in progression-free survival when compared with treatment with just chemotherapy and bevacizumab.

Pharmaceutical peers Haleon and GSK both rose 2.5% in a positive read-across.

Also near the top of London's flagship index were United Utilities, National Grid, Centrica and Severn Trent which closed 3.2%, 2.2%, 1.7%, 2.3% and higher, respectively.

In the FTSE 250, Hilton Food lost 5.5% after it reported its annual profit fell, as it announced the appointment of its new chief executive officer.

Hilton Food appointed Steve Murrells as CEO, with effect on July 3.

Murrells will be replacing Phillip Heffer, who is stepping down after five years in this role. Hilton Food said Heffer will remain with the company as co-founder and advisor to its Foods board.

The food packaging business said its revenue for the year ended January 1 grew by 17% to GBP3.85 billion from GBP3.30 billion the year prior.

This was primarily driven by higher raw material prices and volume growth following Hilton Food's recent acquisition of Foppen, the company said.

Meanwhile, its pretax profit fell by 38% to GBP29.6 million from GBP47.4 million.

This was attributed to challenges in the company's UK Seafood business, as a recovery from inflation took longer than expected, Hilton Food explained.

At the other end of the FTSE 250, Direct Line rose 6.2% after Citigroup raised the insurer to 'buy' from 'sell' with a price target of 188 pence. The stock closed at 152.40p.

Elsewhere in London, Topps Tiles rose 6.9% after it delivered a "record" period in the first half of its financial year, ended April 1.

Revenue climbed 9.5% year-on-year to GBP130.5 million from GBP119.2 million. Topps Tiles said the strong revenue performance reflected the "strength of brands, the execution of our strategy and encouraging domestic market conditions".

The tile seller also noted that about GBP9.0 million of revenue growth is related to the acquisition of Pro Tiler Tools and the launch of Tile Warehouse in 2022.

Chief Executive Rob Parker said: "The economic outlook remains uncertain but early signs of easing supply chain pressures, allied to the group's strong balance sheet, world class customer service, specialist expertise and growth strategy give us confidence in our ability to drive value for all stakeholders over the medium term."

On AIM, Fulham Shore soared 32% after it agreed to be taken over by Tokyo-listed food company Toridoll.

Toridoll will pay 14.15 pence per share, a 35% premium to Fulham Shore's Tuesday closing price of 10.50p. The deal gives the owner of restaurant chains Franco Manca and The Real Greek an equity value of GBP93.4 million.

In European equities on Wednesday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended down 0.4%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended down 0.5%.

The eurozone private sector economy expanded at the strongest pace since May 2022, driven by the services arm.

The seasonally adjusted S&P Global eurozone composite purchasing managers' index rose to 53.7 points in March, from 52.0 points in February.

This marks the highest level since May 2022, and a third successive month above the critical 50.0 threshold that splits growth from contraction.

The euro stood at USD1.0919 at the European equities close on Wednesday, lower against USD1.0957 at the same time on Tuesday.

Stocks in New York were mostly lower at the London equities close, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.1%, the S&P 500 index down 0.5%, and the Nasdaq Composite down 1.3%.

US service sector firms recorded faster growth in business activity during March, according to the latest data from S&P Global.

The seasonally adjusted final S&P Global US services PMI posted 52.6 in March, up from 50.6 in February. An earlier flash estimate had expected a reading of 53.8.

S&P Global said the rise in output was the sharpest since June. Firms attributed this to stronger client demand, a renewed rise in orders and the acquisition of new customers.

However, despite the stronger demand conditions, business confidence was below the series average and dipped from February amid inflation concerns.

"Business activity across the service sector expanded at a faster pace in March, as a return to new order growth offered a tonic to the US economy, which saw the fastest rise in private sector output since last June," said Sian Jones, senior economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY130.94, lower compared to JPY131.83 late Tuesday.

Brent oil was quoted at USD84.48 a barrel at the London equities close on Wednesday, down slightly from USD84.52 late Tuesday. Gold was quoted at USD2,021.30 an ounce, higher against USD2,016.62.

In Thursday's UK corporate calendar, there are trading statements from Ferrexpo and Robert Walters.

In the economic calendar, the Halifax UK house price index will be published at 0700 BST before a UK construction PMI print at 0930 BST.

The US weekly unemployment insurance claims will be released at 1330 BST.

By Heather Rydings, Alliance News senior economics reporter

Comments and questions to [email protected]

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