London’s FTSE 100 finished Wednesday’s trading session 0.3% to the good at 6,963.67 points, albeit off intra-day highs, as investors awaited the latest meeting of the US Federal Reserve as well as updates from Apple and Facebook.

Across the pond in the US, the benchmark S&P 500 traded slightly higher at 4,190.46 points by 4.30pm UK time.

The UK’s blue chip benchmark was buoyed by positive corporate news on both sides of the Atlantic, with quarterly earnings from Google-owner Alphabet and Microsoft beating expectations and optimism over the economic recovery in the UK growing following encouraging results from banking group Lloyds (LLOY).

LLOYDS’ PROFIT JUMP

Shares in Lloyds finished 3.5% higher at 45.1p after it reported a jump in first-quarter profit as bad debt provisions fell amid the ongoing economic recovery.

In its last set of results under outgoing chief executive António Horta-Osório, for the three months ended 31 March pre-tax profit jumped to £1.9 billion, significantly higher than market estimates of £1.1 billion, while net income was down 7% to £3.7 billion.

The bank reported a £459 million release of expected credit loss allowances resulting from improvements to the UK’s economic outlook.

SAINSBURY’S PANDEMIC HIT

Supermarket Sainsbury’s (SBRY) fell 2.9% to 235p as it swung to a full-year loss after rising grocery and general merchandise sales were offset by lower fuel sales and costs associated with adapting to the pandemic.

Housebuilder Persimmon (PSN) ended 0.1% lower at £31.44 even after it reported that house sales so far in 2021 are running 11% higher than the year before the pandemic, as the UK’s mini-housing boom continues.

Forward sales for the period from 1 January to date are worth £3 billion it added, 23% above a year ago when the pandemic struck and compared to £2.7 billion in 2019. Prices are also rising, with the average for a private house built by the group now £252,000 compared to £244,500 a year ago.

OTHER NEWS

In a big day for FTSE 350 news, London Stock Exchange (LSEG) edged 1% higher to £75.54 after reporting a rise in first-quarter income, led by new business and strong customer retention.

Advertising company WPP (WPP) rose 4.3% to 991.6p as its first-quarter revenue increased 1.8% year-on-year amid a return to like-for-like growth in all its business segments.

Gambling company 888 (888) jumped 4.5% to 450p on the news it expects adjusted core earnings for the full year to be ‘broadly consistent’ with the prior year after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter performance.

For the first quarter, revenue grew 66% to $272.5 million, driven by ‘product-leadership strategy, long-term positive customer acquisition trends, and continued expansion in regulated markets,’ it added.

Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) fell 3.9% to £63.28 having reported a 1.1% fall in first-quarter revenue as a surge hygiene products sales was offset by falling health and nutrition revenue, plus negative FX movements.

Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone (DC.) shed 6.7% to 146.8p on announcing that it expected to report annual adjusted profits broadly in line with market expectations, as strong online growth boosted sales.

Engineer Renishaw (RSW), which put itself up for sale in March, softened 0.6% to £63.85, having posted a large rise in year-to-date profit and affirmed full-year guidance. Pre-tax profit for the nine months through March increased to £106.3 million, up from £19.7 million year-on-year, as revenue climbed 4% to £407.4 million and it cut costs.

Challenger lender Metro Bank (MTRO) was marked down 0.5p to 115p as it reported flat first-quarter growth in its lending book, though deposit volumes rose.

Telecom testing and assurance group Spirent Communications (SPT) firmed 2.1% to 257.2p after it recorded flat first-quarter revenue growth, but notched order growth of 8%.

And shares in Mulberry (MUL:AIM) were marked up 13.4% to 288p on news the posh handbag maker now expects to beat market forecasts for its 2021 financial year by reporting a small underlying pre-tax profit.

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Issue Date: 28 Apr 2021