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London close: FTSE sets fresh 15-year high on Greek optimism

Date: Friday 20 Feb 2015

London close: FTSE sets fresh 15-year high on Greek optimism

UK stocks settled at a new 15-year high on Friday afternoon as improving economic data from the Eurozone and optimism about a deal being agreed on Greek debt offset weak retail sales data in Britain.
Eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels on Friday afternoon to discuss a loan extension request by Athens. The proposal was based on different terms than the existing aid package and was rejected immediately by German leaders on Thursday, though markets are hopeful that the Eurogroup can still negotiate an accord.

London's FTSE 100 index rose 0.4% to 6,915.20, its best close since a record-high of 6,930.20 was reached in December 1999.

The positive move "is a sign both that markets still expect a deal of some sort and of the realisation that Greece's relatively small size means the immediate consequences can be managed more effectively than would have been the case two or three years ago", said Chris Beauchamp from IG.

He said that "a deal in Europe could mean the all-time high [for the FTSE 100] is but a session or two away".

In economic data on Friday, Markit's Eurozone composite purchasing managers' index rose to a seven-month high in February. The 'flash' reading increased from 52.6 to 53.5 this month and "paint[s] an upbeat picture of improving Eurozone economic health", said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.

Closer to home, UK retail sales fell 0.3% month-on-month in January, worse than the 0.2% drop expected and reversing after a 0.2% increase the month before. Excluding auto, retail sales slumped 0.7%, more than the 0.3% decline predicted.

Standard Life and resource stocks rise

Insurance giant Standard Life impressed after beating forecasts with a 19% increase in annual operating profit before tax from continuing operations to £604m, while the total dividend was lifted 7.8% to 17.03p per share. The recent acquisition of Ignis also helped it to increase assets under administration by 38% in 2014.


Shares in the oil and mining sectors were also on the rise. Glencore, Tullow Oil, BG Group and Anglo American finished with decent gains with oil producers in particular benefiting from a 1% increase in the price of Brent crude to $60.80 a barrel.

Essentra, the plastic, fibre and foam products group, advanced after exceeding expectations for 2014 with like-for-like revenue up 9% and adjusted earning per share up 19%.

Serco was higher after Credit Suisse upgraded its rating on the outsourcing group to 'neutral' and hiked its target price from 142p to 208p. DIY retailer Kingfisher however was lower after Barclays Capital cut its recommendation to 'underweight', while housebuilder Persimmon was lowered to 'neutral' by JPMorgan Cazenove.

International Consolidated Airlines declined after a senior Irish government minister said its offer to buy a 25% stake in Aer Lingus was not persuasive enough.

Market Movers

techMARK 3,137.45 +0.14%
FTSE 100 6,915.20 +0.38%
FTSE 250 17,122.55 +0.43%

FTSE 100 - Risers
Glencore (GLEN) 292.10p +3.02%
Standard Life (SL.) 419.60p +2.72%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,911.00p +2.63%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 407.30p +2.29%
BG Group (BG.) 971.40p +2.09%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,246.50p +1.92%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 232.40p +1.75%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,012.00p +1.61%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 1,116.00p +1.55%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 467.40p +1.50%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 551.00p -2.31%
Carnival (CCL) 2,875.00p -2.28%
Centrica (CNA) 252.10p -1.94%
Kingfisher (KGF) 341.30p -1.90%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,752.00p -1.85%
Shire Plc (SHP) 5,065.00p -1.36%
Fresnillo (FRES) 827.00p -1.14%
Hammerson (HMSO) 665.00p -1.12%
Royal Mail (RMG) 423.90p -1.05%
St James's Place (STJ) 897.00p -0.99%

FTSE 250 - Risers
Essentra (ESNT) 963.00p +8.81%
Serco Group (SRP) 211.90p +5.74%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 207.60p +5.01%
Computacenter (CCC) 734.00p +4.80%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 598.00p +4.00%
Dignity (DTY) 2,029.00p +3.52%
Nostrum Oil & Gas (NOG) 603.00p +3.43%
Game Digital (GMD) 262.00p +3.39%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 947.50p +3.38%
AO World (AO.) 285.40p +2.66%

FTSE 250 - Fallers
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 1,900.00p -11.21%
Afren (AFR) 9.44p -11.03%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 109.40p -2.32%
BTG (BTG) 783.00p -2.31%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 203.60p -2.12%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 920.50p -1.87%
Rexam (REX) 560.50p -1.58%
Countrywide (CWD) 514.50p -1.53%
Telecity Group (TCY) 923.00p -1.44%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 88.00p -1.40%

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