The FTSE 100 index retook the 8,000-point level, setting a new record high in the process, early Thursday, lifted by a big jump in underlying profit at British Gas-owner Centrica.
The FTSE 100 index was up 26.04 points, 0.3%, at 8,023.87. It hit a new record of 8,046.00 points earlier in the morning.
The FTSE 250 was up 50.25 points, 0.3%, at 20,222.84, and the AIM All-Share was up 0.62 of a point, or 0.1%, at 870.15.
The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.3% at 803.05, the Cboe UK 250 flat at 17,564.68, and the Cboe Small Companies up 0.3% at 14,059.05.
The pound was stronger on Thursday morning, though still bruised by UK inflation data on Wednesday that offered the Bank of England room to slow or stop UK interest rate hikes.
Inflation in the UK slowed by slightly more than forecast in January, though remained in double digits, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed. On an annual basis, the consumer price index eased to 10.1% in January from 10.5% in December. Consensus had expected inflation to cool to 10.3%, according to FXStreet.
The pound was quoted at $1.2053 at early on Thursday in London, higher compared to $1.2007 at the equities close on Wednesday.
Centrica was the best performing stock in the FTSE 100, up 4.0%.
The power utility swung to a statutory loss on re-measurement and higher operating costs, while adjusted profit tripled as revenue surged 84%.
The Windsor-based firm announced a pretax loss of £240 million in 2022, compared to a profit of £954 million in 2021. Revenue jumped 84% to £33.64 billion from £18.30 billion.
The swing to a loss was on re-measurements after taxation, Centrica said, largely reflecting the revaluation of UK energy supply hedging positions due to wholesale gas and power price falls towards the end of the year. The cost for re-measurement and settlement of derivative energy contracts ballooned to £8.48 billion in 2022 from £434 million in 2021.
However, adjusted operating profit tripled to £3.31 billion from £948 million on the revenue rise.
Centrica said it intends to extend its existing £250 million buyback programme, announced in November, by an additional £300 million. This would result in Centrica buying back 10% of its share capital, the power utility said. The company also proposed a full-year dividend of 2.0 pence, compared to none in 2021.
Relx up 3.0% after it posted double-digit rises in full year profit and revenue. The professional information publisher said it plans to spend £800 million on share buybacks in 2023.
In 2022, pretax profit rose 18% to £2.11 billion from £1.80 billion in 2021, while revenue climbed 18% to £8.55 billion from £7.24 billion.
Looking ahead, Relx said momentum remains strong across the group. It expects underlying growth rates in revenue and adjusted operating profit to remain above historical trends.
Standard Chartered shares rose 1.8%. The bank reported pretax profit of $4.29 billion in 2022, up from $3.35 billion in 2021, as interest income jumped by nearly 50% to $15.25 billion from $10.25 billion.
The Asia-focused lender said it was optimistic about the reopening of China and for economic growth in Asia in the year ahead.
Gary Greenwood, an analyst at Shore Capital, said Standard Chartered’s earnings disappointed but its capital position is stronger than expected and its forward guidance is encouraging.
Greenwood said that while the bank’s shares have rallied recently on media reports of buying interest from First Abu Dhabi Bank, which have been denied, they remain ‘fundamentally undervalued, with the prospect of a takeover further enhancing the investment case’.
Shore has a ’buy’ rating on StanChart shares at their current price, which had been 729 pence and now is 742.10p.
In the FTSE 250, Indivior plunged 11%. The pharmaceutical firm swung to a pretax loss of $95 million in 2022 from a profit of $190 million the previous year.
Indivior explained that it booked a $290 million exceptional provision in the year as it navigates initial mediation sessions in late January regarding legacy civil multi-district antitrust litigation.
‘Because these matters are in various stages, Indivior cannot predict with any certainty how these matters will ultimately be resolved, or the costs, or timing of such resolution. In particular, any final aggregate costs of these matters, whether resolved by settlement or trial, may be materially different from this provision,’ the company added.
Elsewhere in London, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners shares slipped 0.2%.
The soft-drinks bottling company reported jumps in pretax profit and revenue in 2022 as it declared a record full-year interim dividend of €1.68, up 20% against the prior year.
In 2022, pretax profit totalled €1.96 billion, up from €1.38 billion the year prior. Revenue climbed to €17.32 billion from €13.76 billion year-on-year.
Looking forward, Coca-Cola EP said it expects comparable revenue growth of between 6% and 8% in 2023.
In European equities on Thursday, the CAC 40 index in Paris was up 1.0%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.7%.
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde reiterated Wednesday that the ECB plans to raise its interest rates by half a percentage point.
Data released on Monday showed the 20-nation currency bloc dodged a recession at the end of last year by posting weak-but-positive growth of 0.1%, while inflation has been easing - even if it remains at a high 8.5%.
‘In view of the underlying inflation pressures we intend to raise interest rates by another 50 basis points at our next meeting in March,’ Lagarde told lawmakers at the European Parliament.
The euro stood at $1.0713 early Thursday, higher against $1.0669 at the London equities close on Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JP¥133.78, lower compared to JP¥134.32.
In Tokyo on Thursday, the Nikkei 225 index closed up 0.7%. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed down 1.0%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong closed up 0.8%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed up 0.8%.
New York ended higher on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending up 0.1%, the S&P 500 up 0.3%, and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.9%.
Brent oil was quoted at $85.64 a barrel at early in London on Thursday, up from $84.07 late Wednesday. Gold was quoted at $1,840.05 an ounce, sharply higher against $1,832.19.
The International Energy Agency has sharply raised its forecast for global crude oil demand because of the prospect of stronger economic growth in China.
For the whole year, the IEA expects an increase of 2 million barrels per day to an average of 101.9 million barrels per day.
Still to come on Thursday’s economic calendar, the US will publish its weekly unemployment claims report at 1330 GMT alongside the producer price index.
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