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LONDON MARKET OPEN: FTSE 100 lags as other indices make headway

24th Jan 2023 09:33

(Correcting December borrowing figure to billion.)

(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London opened mixed on Tuesday, with the FTSE 100 underperforming, as a more positive mood prevailed elsewhere.

The FTSE 100 index opened down 37.70 points, 0.5%, at 7,747.28. The FTSE 250 was up 31.45 points, 0.2%, at 19,833.14, and the AIM All-Share was up 2.51 points, 0.3%, at 861.59.

The Cboe UK 100 was down 0.6% at 861.59, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.4% at 17,341.81, and the Cboe Small Companies was slightly lower at 13988.99

"Winds of optimism are still blowing through financial markets, with indices in Europe and Asia higher after stocks on Wall Street sailed ahead at a clip. Investors are looking through the storm clouds hovering over the global economy hoping that the downpour won't completely drown growth," said Hargreaves Lansdown's Susannah Streeter.

In local data, UK public sector borrowing - excluding public sector banks - in the final month of 2022 reached its highest December figure since monthly records began in 1993, according to the ONS.

Borrowing hit GBP27.4 billion, which was GBP16.7 billion higher than the previous year, and GBP9.8 billion higher than the latest official forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The increase was largely due to a sharp rise in the spend for energy support schemes, as well as an increase in debt interest.

"It's the third month in a row that borrowing has exceeded expectations, and faced with this deteriorating deficit, it will leave the government with no wriggle room for any quick tax giveaways in the March budget and it's likely that a very tight grip will be kept on spending," HL's Streeter said.

In European equities early Tuesday, the CAC 40 index in Paris was up 0.3%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.1%.

Consumer confidence in Germany improved at the start of 2023 for the fourth consecutive month, according to the latest Growth for Knowledge survey.

GfK forecasts a reading of minus 33.9 points for its consumer sentiment tracker in February, up 3.7 points from a revised figure of minus 37.6 in January.

The brighter outlook is mostly due to falling prices of energy, including gasoline and heating oil, GfK noted.

"It's another positive sign for companies fearing the effects of well-flagged interest rate rises, indicating that consumers are showing resilience, but they are still likely to stay cautious," HL's Streeter noted.

In further positive news, the rate of deterioration in Europe's largest private sector eased in January.

The BME Germany flash composite purchasing managers' index rose to 49.7 in January from 49.0 in December. Remaining below the 50.0 no-change mark, it shows the sector remains in contraction, but the pace of decline has slowed.

The services PMI returned to growth at 50.4 points, sup from 49.7, offsetting the manufacturing PMI which fell to 47.0 from 47.1.

In the foreign exchange market, the dollar was slightly softer early Tuesday.

Sterling was quoted at USD1.2398, higher than USD1.2368 at the London equities close on Monday. The euro traded at USD1.0884, up from USD1.0870. Against the yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY130.00, down from JPY130.62.

In the FTSE 100, Associated British Foods shed 1.1% in early trade.

AB Foods said its Primark high-street retail chain enjoyed a "very strong Christmas period", bucking a consumer confidence malaise in the UK and beyond. However, it said things could sour as tough economic conditions may "weigh on consumer spending in the months ahead".

In the 16 weeks to January 7, group revenue surged 20% to GBP6.70 billion, from GBP5.57 billion, as a strong dollar boosted dollar-denominated sales in pound terms. At constant currency, growth was slightly weaker at 16%.

By unit, Grocery revenue climbed 14% and Agriculture revenue by 19%. In Sugar and Ingredients, it rose 31% and 36%, respectively. Across the whole of its Food sub-group, revenue was up 23% to GBP3.55 billion.

In the Retail division, revenue was 18% higher at GBP3.15 billion from GBP2.67 billion a year earlier. Sales in the week leading up to Christmas Day "reached a new record", AB Foods said.

Overall, AB Foods said its expectations for group annual results remain unchanged. It expects "significant" sales growth, with adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share to be lower than the previous financial year.

"On the whole, there is an element of pleasant surprise within these numbers. The group has been able to pull different levers as it navigated changing conditions, and this diversification continues to deliver with Primark now returning to form," said interactive investor's Richard Hunter.

"However, this was not quite enough to repair the damage of the last financial period which included a profit warning...While the update may prompt some upgrades, the current market consensus remains at a hold until the new course can be shown to be sustainable."

Share price falls for some of the FTSE 100 index's largest constituents were weighing it down early Tuesday, with AstraZeneca down 2.3%, Glencore down 1.9%, BP losing 0.% and Shell down 0.9%.

In the FTSE 250, Senior jumped 9.8%, as the engineering firm boasted a rosy outlook, with profit expected to beat consensus.

The components and systems manufacturer expects adjusted pretax profit to beat market consensus. Senior said its company-compiled consensus range is GBP16.2 million to GBP18.0 million. In 2021, it had made a GBP1.9 million adjusted pretax loss, narrowing from GBP6.2 million in 2020.

Senior suffered from pandemic-driven supply chain weakness at an industry level last year. The Hertfordshire-based company's fortunes improved in 2022, however.

The strong results will be led by an "outperformance" in its Flexonics arm, with the Aerospace division having traded in line with expectations.

Among London small-caps, pub operator Marston's added 6.0%.

The firm said like-for-like sales in the 16-week period to Saturday of last week were 13% ahead of the previous year, including the hit from Omicron.

On a like-for-like basis, sales in the eight weeks to November 26 were 6.8% ahead of a year before, as previously reported. In the eight weeks after that, like-for-like sales were 19% ahead.

The Wolverhampton, England-based pub chain also noted like-for-like sales were 4.5% ahead of financial 2020. the firm also noted its electricity costs are now hedged for the entirety of the current financial year to September. It left earnings guidance unchanged.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, the Nikkei 225 index rose 1.5%, as preliminary survey results showed the Japanese private sector returned to growth in January.

The latest au Jibun Bank services PMI rose to 52.4 points in January from 51.1 the month before, according to the flash reading.

The services score lifted the flash composite PMI to 50.8 in January, from 49.7 in December. Crossing above the 50.0 no-change mark, it shows Japan's private sector has returned to marginal growth from last month's slight contraction.

The manufacturing sector remained in contraction. The output index edged up to 47.1 points from 46.6.

Meanwhile, markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong remained shut to mark Lunar New Year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index in Sydney closed up 0.4%.

Wall Street ended higher on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.8%, the S&P 500 up 1.2% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite up 2.0%.

Gold was quoted at USD1,938.72 an ounce early Tuesday, higher than USD1,922.40 late Monday. Brent oil was trading at USD88.04 a barrel, down from USD88.82

In the economic calendar, there's the UK flash PMI at 0930 GMT, with the US to follow at 1445 GMT.

By Elizabeth Winter, Alliance News senior markets reporter

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