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LONDON MARKET OPEN: Housebuilders rise as UK housing market recovers

1st Mar 2024 08:49

(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London opened mostly higher on Friday, after data from Nationwide showed that the UK housing market is recovering.

The FTSE 100 index opened up 40.73 points, 0.5%, at 7,670.75. The FTSE 250 was up 74.12 points, 0.4%, at 19,128.99, and the AIM All-Share was down 0.03 of a points at 736.47.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.3% at 768.41, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.2% at 16,500.90, and the Cboe Small Companies was down marginally at 14,459.80.

In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.1%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.6%.

In the US on Thursday, Wall Street ended higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.1%, the S&P 500 up 0.5% and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.9%.

"Thank God! Yesterday's inflation report from the US wasn't worse than expected," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

US inflation pressure eased a touch at the start of the year, according to new data.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the core personal consumption expenditure grew 2.8% on-year in January, easing from December's 2.9% rise. The core PCE reading is the Fed's preferred inflation gauge.

The outcome came out in line with FXStreet cited consensus.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2634 early on Friday in London, down compared to USD1.2636 at the equities close on Thursday. The euro stood at USD1.0813, up against USD1.0811. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY150.63, higher compared to JPY149.82.

Meanwhile, new data on Friday showed that UK house prices edged higher in February, indicating signs of recovery in the housing market.

The Nationwide house price index showed a 0.7% increase in seasonally adjusted UK house prices in February from January, the same monthly rise as in January. According to FXStreet, market consensus expected the house price index to edge up just 0.3% last month. House prices had been flat in December.

In February, the average UK house price stood at GBP260,420, up slightly from GBP257,656 in January, without seasonal adjustment.

Annually, the house price index rose 1.2% in February, after a 0.2% fall in January. This came in higher than consensus, with markets expecting a 0.7% increase.

"The decline in borrowing costs around the turn of the year appears to have prompted an uptick in the housing market. Indeed, industry data sources point to a noticeable increase in mortgage applications at the start of the year, while surveyors also reported a rise in new buyer enquiries," said Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist.

On the back of the data, London's blue-chip housebuilders were trading higher. Taylor Wimpey was up 1.1%, Barratt Developments rose 0.8%, and Persimmon edged 0.5% higher.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 100, Rightmove lost 3.4%.

In 2023, the property portal reported revenue jumped 10% on-year to GBP364.3 million from GBP332.6 million. Pretax profit in the year climbed to GBP259.8 million from GBP241.3 million.

On the back of the results, Rightmove paid out a final dividend of 5.7p, bring the total dividend to 9.3p up from 8.5p.

In the FTSE 250, ITV jumped 15%.

ITV said it has sold its entire 50% interest in digital subscription streaming service BritBox International to its joint venture partner BBC Studios for a cash consideration of GBP255 million.

"The sale reflects ITV's strategy of focusing on supercharging its UK advertiser-funded streaming service, ITVX and growing its global Studios division," ITV said.

The ITV board intends to return the entire net sale proceeds to shareholders through a share buyback which it expects to launch after the release of its full year results on March 7.

Amongst London's small-caps, Superdry lost 11%.

The clothing retailer said that it is extending its PUSU deadline with Chief Executive Julian Dunkerton. It has been extended to March 29.

Earlier in February, Dunkerton confirmed that he is in discussions with potential financing partners. This could include a possible cash offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of the company, not already owned by him.

"Discussions with Julian Dunkerton and potential sponsors regarding a possible offer for the company remain ongoing alongside the company's continued work on its turnaround plan, including its exploration of various material cost saving options, which is expected to be an important element of any such offer," Superdry said.

In China, the Shanghai Composite was up 0.4%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was up 0.5%.

Two survey readings painted a mixed picture of China's manufacturing sector activity in February.

According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, the manufacturing purchasing managers' index came in a 49.1 points in February, a touch below January's reading of 49.2 - a sub-50 reading indicates a contraction.

However, the Caixin China manufacturing PMI suggested a slight expansion, rising to 50.9 from 50.8.

"Helping to nudge the headline index higher was a slightly quicker rise in manufacturing production across China during February. Though modest, the rate of output growth was the fastest seen since May 2023, with companies generally attributing this to a sustained improvement in market conditions and greater new order volumes," Caixin said.

In Asia on Friday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo was up 1.9%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed up 0.6%

Brent oil was quoted at USD81.81 a barrel early in London on Friday, down from USD82.13 late Thursday. Gold was quoted at USD2,040.44 an ounce, lower against USD2,045.84.

The economic calendar on the first day of March has a slew of purchasing managers' index, including China and Japan overnight. Numbers for the eurozone are reported at 0900 GMT, the UK at 0930 GMT and the US at 1445 GMT and 1500 GMT.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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