UK stocks open firmer after a positive showing on Wall Street overnight led by techology stocks and a small rebound in Asian equities.

Leading the FTSE100 higher in terms of contribution to the index are heavyweight oil producers BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch (RDSB) together with Asian-exposed banks HSBC (HSBA) and Standard Chartered (STAN).

TRICK OR TREAT

Standard Chartered shares put on 4% to 554p following a pleasing third-quarter trading update which showed net interest income up 8% and pre-tax profits up 37% thanks to ‘solid fundamentals’ across its core markets.

At the other end of the FTSE is Next (NEXT) with shares down 4% to £51.15 after what could be the shortest trading statement of the season so far.

The retailer reported third-quarter full-price sales up 2% in line with expectations but shy of the first half’s 4.5% increase. Stripping out the Finance line, which is the interest charged on customer balances, actual full-price sales were only up a disappointing 1.3% compared with 3.3% in the first half as online sales growth slowed.

BOOKIES, BARGAINS AND BLOW-UPS

Bookmaker William Hill (WMH) continues its strong recent showing with shares up another 6% today to 221p on news that it has made a recommended cash offer for Swedish rival Mr Green.

The offer, at SEK 69 per share or a 49% premium to the previous closing price, values Mr Green at SEK 2.82bn or £242m and adds leading gaming and casino products to William Hill’s stable.

Shares in retirement planning firm Just Group (JUST) also trade 6% higher to 95p after a strong trading update which showed defined-benefit de-risking income up an impressive 91% over the first nine months of the year.

The shares received a major boost late last week on the news that the Prudential Regulatory Authority had delayed its deadline for new rules on equity-release mortgages by a year.

Best performer in the FTSE250 is Inchcape (INCH) with shares up 8% to 550p continuing its recent rally from sub-500p on bargain-hunting. Even with today’s move the shares only trade on 8 times full-year earnings and under 8 times next year’s earnings.

The worst performer in the FTSE 250 is Computacenter (CCC) down 18% to £10.24 after its third-quarter trading update. On the face of it revenue growth has slowed sharply from the first half, in particular in the UK, but as the company points out this is due to a ‘significantly more challenging comparison’.

In the first half of last year sales grew by 9% but in the third quarter they grew by 20% so this year’s third quarter was always going to look weak relatively speaking. The company is positive on the outlook for the final quarter although growth isn’t expected to be as good as in the first half.

Finally investors will be eyeing GlaxoSmithkline (GSK)’s third-quarter update scheduled for midday.

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Issue Date: 31 Oct 2018