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Sports betting firm Entain closed 5% up after annoucing new CEO / Image source: Adobe

Stock prices in London closed higher on Thursday following higher-than-expected US initial jobless claims.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 38.45 points, 0.5%, at 7,975.89. The FTSE 250 ended up 119.55 points, 0.6%, at 19,873.19, and the AIM All-Share closed up 0.50 of a point at 742.58.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.5% at 796.99, the Cboe UK 250 closed up 0.7% at 17,294.15, and the Cboe Small Companies ended up 0.6% at 14,746.83.

In European equities on Thursday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended flat, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended up 0.2%.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that jobless claims increased to 221,000 in the week ended March 29, up from 212,000 and higher than the FXStreet-cited consensus of 214,000.

‘Initial jobless claims rose to the highest level since late January in the week ended March 30, but remain comfortably below a level that would signal a significant weakening in labour market conditions,’ said Oxford Economics analyst Nancy Vanden Houten.

‘The claims data and other labour market indicators are consistent with a job market that is still quite healthy. The Fed doesn’t require a significant weakening in the labor market to begin cutting interest rates but does need to be confident the job market is balanced enough to support slower wage growth.

‘However, based primarily on recent inflation data, we have pushed the timing of the first rate cut in our forecast from May to June.’

On Wednesday evening, Fed Chair Powell told a conference in California that the current risks to the US economy were ‘two-sided,’ with negative consequences for the economy if policymakers moved to cut rates too fast or too slow.

‘The risk, though, of moving too soon, really is...that inflation does move up,’ he said, adding that it ‘would be quite disruptive if we were to have to then come back in.’

But if the US economy continues to evolve as expected, most Fed participants still expect it will be ‘appropriate to begin lowering the policy rate at some point this year,’ he said.

Eyes now turn to Friday’s nonfarm payrolls reading, which is expected to show the pace of jobs growth eased to 200,000 in March, from 275,000 in February, according to FXStreet.

Numbers on Wednesday from payroll processor ADP showed the US private sector added more jobs in March than a month earlier.

Private sector employment increased by 184,000 jobs in March, rising from 155,000 in February. March’s jobs growth topped the FXStreet cited consensus of 148,000.

The pound was quoted at $1.2667 at the London equities close on Thursday, up from $1.2630 late Wednesday. The euro stood at $1.0865, rising from $1.0827. Against the yen, the dollar was down to JP¥151.67 from JP¥151.72.

Stocks in New York were higher at the London equities close, with the DJIA up 0.4%, the S&P 500 index up 0.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.9%.

In London’s FTSE 100, Entain led gains, rising 5.0%, after the sports betting and gambling firm said Interim Chief Executive Officer Stella David will replace Barry Gibson as chair by the end of September.

Gibson may step down earlier than September, Entain said, depending on the timing and appointment of a new CEO.

Entain noted it is continuing its search for a new CEO following Jette Nygaard-Andersen’s departure in December.

Miners also fared well, with Antofagasta up 4.7%, Fresnillo up 3.2% and Anglo American 3.1%, while oil majors Shell and BP rose 0.6% and fell 0.8% respectively.

Brent oil was quoted at $89.13 at the London equities close on Thursday, falling from $89.69 at the London equities close on Wednesday. Brent had risen as high as $89.95 on Wednesday, however.

Gold was quoted at $2,292.67, rising from $2,286.90 at the time of the London equities close on Wednesday. It had spiked to $2,304.89 earlier on Thursday.

Lenders also fared well in the FTSE 100, with Lloyds up 3.0%, NatWest up 2.9%, and Barclays up 2.5%.

In the FTSE 250, Future surged 14%, after it said it was on course to deliver on expectations after returning to organic revenue growth in the second quarter.

The online magazine publisher and owner of the Go Compare price comparison site said the return to growth has been driven by a strong performance in Go Compare, alongside good growth in business to business, and a resilient performance in magazines.

However, this has been offset by a more challenging performance in affiliate products and digital advertising as macroeconomic pressures and low visibility continue to impact the wider sector.

Future said it was on-track to deliver on expectations for the financial year, subject to impact of foreign exchange translation. Cash conversion in the half has been strong, and it is highly cash generative, Future said.

Among London’s small-caps, Gulf Marine Services rose 14%, after the provider of self-propelled and self-elevating support vessels for the offshore oil, gas, and renewable energy sectors reported double-digit earnings growth in 2023 and set out lofty 2024 guidance.

Revenue in 2023 rose 14% to $151.6 million from $133.2 million, while pretax profit jumped 66% to $44.9 million from $27.1 million.

Gulf Marine Services said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were 22% higher at $87.5 million from $71.5 million. For 2024, it expects an adjusted Ebitda between $92 million and $100 million, possibly a rise of 14%.

On AIM, Gelion surged 70%, after it said it achieved a milestone with its lithium-sulphur battery development, increasing its energy density by around 60%.

The London-based battery technology company said this was by fabricating a 395 watt-hour per kilogram lithium-sulphur 9.5 ampere-hour pouch cell in a commercial cell format. Gelion said the energy density increase is compared with current lithium-ion batteries, which provide around 250 watt-hours per kilogram.

The economic calendar for Friday has construction PMIs for the eurozone and Germany out at 0830 BST, and for the UK at 0930 BST. Halifax’s UK house price index is out at 0700 BST, while eurozone retail sales figures are out at 1000 BST.

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Issue Date: 04 Apr 2024