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London close: US jobs data lifts sentiment

Date: Wednesday 24 Nov 2010

London close: US jobs data lifts sentiment

Footsie put its early uncertainty behind it to close with good gains, helped by strong jobs figures from the US which cheered global markets following the jitteriness of the last couple of days.

First-time jobless claims fell by a bigger than expected 34,000 to 407,000 in the week ended 20 November, figures from the Department of Labor revealed. Economists had expected small decline to 435,000.

UK banks have shrugged off the news that credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has cut its debt rating for Ireland as the Irish government puts the finishing touches to a four-year plan to slash its deficit. Lloyds, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland all made headway.

Among today’s risers on the back of company updates was Compass, which has upped its dividend by a third as cash and new business flowed through the contract caterer's door over the past year. Revenues rose by 7.6% to £14.5bn in the year to September, with underlying growth of 3.2%.

Intertek Group advanced after Goldman Sachs added the product tester to its “conviction buy” list. Also added to the list is outsourcing group Capita, while fellow outsource Serco is jubilant after it won an 8-year £200m contract to expand the services it performs on behalf of Hertfordshire County Council.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce endured a spell of turbulence earlier this month when a fault on its engines prompted Qantas to ground its A380 super-jumbo aircraft, but the bad publicity has not deterred the Emirates airline from awarding the UK company a $1.2bn order to provide engine services for 50 of its aircraft. The order follows hot on the heels of the $1.8bn engine order from China that Rolls-Royce announced at the start of this week.

Platinum giant Johnson Matthey sparkled after it saw good growth in most of its markets in the first half, especially catalysts for cars in North America and Asia. Profit before tax rose to £144.1m in the half-year to 30 September from £109.5m the year before.

SABMiller, the world’s second-biggest brewer, was fizzing after announcing that it has advanced into territory dominated by top dog Anheuser-Busch Inbev with the purchase of CASA Isenbeck, Argentina’s third-largest brewer.

Capital Shopping Centres, formerly part of Liberty International, is lower after has confirmed it is close to agreeing the purchase of Manchester’s Trafford Centre in a deal worth £1.6bn.

Interim results from water supplier United Utilities were slightly ahead of management expectations, but investors are in no mood to buy defensive stocks today, it seems, as the shares fall back. In the six months to 30 September the company made an underlying profit before tax of £196.2m, down from £258.2m the year before.

Away from the FTSE 100, buy-to-let mortgage lender Paragon reported a sharp increase in full year profit on strong rental demand, a decrease in its provision for losses and as the turmoil of the credit market crisis continues to fade.

Sub-prime lender Provident Financial has seen a pick-up in the home credit loan sales since the end of October, putting the firm on track for a “good” 2010.

Another company set for a strong year is IDOX, the document management company that actually seems to be doing better in local government as a result of pressure from Westminster to cut costs. Full year results are set to be materially ahead of market expectations, the company said, and with strong cash generation and good revenue visibility, the company will be in a position to accelerate its dividend growth when it announces its full year results in January.

Sportingbet, the online bookie, is higher after saying it continues to see strong growth in the ‘in play’ side of the business. Amounts wagered in the three month period to 31 October – the group’s first quarter – rose 10.9% to £513.9m from £463.2m the year before, with the sums bet on sporting events in play rising 27%.

HaiKe Chemical, a China-based manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and biochemicals, has seen a 'material improvement' in trading in all of its businesses since its last half-year. The company posted an interim loss of $21.2m, against a profit of $10.8m, but following the recent improvement HaiKEe expects to recoup most of the first half deficit by the year-end.

Test results from Afren’s Okwok-9 appraisal well have confirmed the Okwok field, offshore south east Nigeria, is economically viable and big enough to commercially develop. The oil company, which began drilling the well late August, needed at least 25 million barrels to make the field worthwhile.

Shares of retinal imaging company Optos rose over 8% as it returned to profit and issued a confident outlook.

Media rights group Galleon sinks lower after it said it has not been able to agree acceptable terms on £2m worth of deals it had expected to complete this year. New discussions have been initiated for these rights while discussions for other expected contracts are still ongoing, Galleon said.

Global data capture and processing solutions provider DRS Data has seen an acceleration in revenue growth in the second half of the year on the back of new one-off contracts to conduct censuses in Zambia and Pakistan.

Thor Mining thundered higher this morning, rising by more than 70% at one stage, before coming off the top after the AIM-listed miner said it knew of no reason for the share price movement.

FTSE 100 - Risers
Compass Group (CPG) 566.00p +7.30%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 1,850.00p +5.53%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,373.00p +4.25%
Xstrata (XTA) 1,323.50p +4.21%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,050.00p +4.17%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 1,449.00p +4.17%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 95.05p +4.11%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 394.20p +3.82%
Schroders (SDR) 1,636.00p +3.68%
British Airways (BAY) 273.40p +3.56%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
Autonomy Corporation (AU.) 1,271.00p -5.92%
Capital Shopping Centres Group (CSCG) 337.40p -5.09%
Kingfisher (KGF) 244.20p -1.65%
BAE Systems (BA.) 333.80p -1.48%
Aviva (AV.) 378.00p -1.38%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 610.00p -1.21%
Hammerson (HMSO) 387.40p -1.02%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 639.50p -0.85%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 225.10p -0.75%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 1,937.00p -0.72%

FTSE 250 - Risers
Provident Financial (PFG) 841.50p +8.58%
Paragon Group Of Companies (PAG) 169.00p +5.96%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 26.60p +5.81%
Cookson Group (CKSN) 557.00p +5.59%
Lamprell (LAM) 326.90p +5.55%
Gartmore Group Ltd. (GRT) 101.50p +4.64%
Heritage Oil (HOIL) 378.90p +4.61%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 180.60p +4.15%
Yule Catto & Co (YULC) 242.30p +3.90%
Melrose Resources (MRS) 247.00p +3.78%

FTSE 250 - Fallers
Laird (LRD) 147.40p -3.03%
Grainger (GRI) 90.90p -2.99%
Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CW.) 63.25p -2.54%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 23.40p -2.50%
Atkins (WS) (ATK) 697.50p -2.17%
Premier Foods (PFD) 16.98p -1.91%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 303.00p -1.85%
Rightmove (RMV) 736.50p -1.80%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 541.00p -1.73%
SEGRO (SGRO) 279.00p -1.69%

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