JD Sports sign
In the FTSE 100, JD Sports surged 16% on Thursday / Image source: Adobe

Stocks in London headed into the long weekend on the front foot, outperforming their European peers.

Markets in London will now shut for two public holidays, Good Friday and Easter Monday. They will reopen on Tuesday.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 20.64 points, 0.3%, at 7,952.62. The FTSE 250 ended up 74.07 points, 0.4%, at 19,884.73, and the AIM All-Share closed up 1.15 points, or 0.2%, at 743.26.

Over the last five days, they are up 0.9%, up 0.7%, and up 0.4%.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.3% at 795.80, the Cboe UK 250 closed up 0.7% at 17,337.36, and the Cboe Small Companies ended down 0.6% at 14,555.44.

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

As well as the start of a long weekend, Thursday marks the end of the first quarter of the year. In the year-to-date, the FTSE 100 is up 3.0%.

The UK slipped into a technical recession in the fourth quarter of 2023, numbers from the Office for National Statistics confirmed on Thursday.

UK gross domestic product slumped 0.3% in the three months to December from a quarter earlier, unchanged from initial ONS numbers provided in February. The UK economy had declined 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the third-quarter of 2023.

It means the UK has entered a technical recession at the end of last year, which is generally defined as two successive quarterly falls in gross domestic product.

Eyes have now turned onto the personal consumption expenditures index, which is the US Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge. It is due out at 1330 GMT on Good Friday.

According to FXStreet cited consensus, the rate of core PCE inflation is expected to have been unmoved at 2.8% in February. The headline rate is expected to have picked up to 2.5% in February, from 2.4% in January.

The central bank should either scale back or delay its interest rate cuts in response to ‘disappointing’ inflation data, a senior Federal Reserve official said Wednesday, according to an AFP report.

‘In my view, it is appropriate to reduce the overall number of rate cuts or push them further into the future in response to the recent data,’ Fed Governor Christopher Waller told a conference in New York.

The pound was quoted at $1.2640 at the London equities close Thursday, up compared to $1.2630 at the close on Wednesday.

The euro stood at $1.0803 at the European equities close Thursday, lower against $1.0823 at the same time on Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JP¥151.29, down compared to JP¥151.35 late Wednesday.

Stocks in New York were mixed at the London equities close, with the DJIA and the Nasdaq Composite both down 0.1%, whilst the S&P 500 index was up 0.1%.

In the FTSE 100, JD Sports surged 16%.

Lancashire-based, FTSE 100-listed sportswear retailer JD Sports said like-for-like sales rose 4.2% on-year in the 53 weeks to February 3, and were up 8.4% organically on a constant currency basis. Total sales grew 3.6% to around £10.5 billion.

As a result, it expects full-year pretax profit before adjusted items to be in line with its guided range of £915 million to £935 million, but down from £991.4 million the year earlier.

In January, the firm cut its outlook to that range. In September, it said it expected to meet market expectations at the time of £1.04 billion. The guidance cut sparked a more than 20% slide in its share price on January 4.

Shore Capital retail analyst Clive Black said after the ‘disappointment’ of the January warning today’s statement makes for ‘grounded reading,’ with no further weakening in the 2024 full-year out-turn and, a firmer basis for financial 2025.

Smith & Nephew lost 4.5%, after it confirmed that incoming Chief Financial Officer John Rogers will officially start the role on April 1.

The London-based medical technology company first announced Rogers’ appointment back in November.

In the FTSE 250, AO World rose 12%.

The electricals retailer lifted its yearly outlook, with its move to focus on ‘profit and cash generation’ paying off.

AO World expects adjusted pretax profit to be ‘at least’ at the top end of a £28 million to £33 million range for the year ending March 31. It raised its outlook to that guidance range in November.

Spirent jumped 12%, after it agreed to a takeover by Keysight Technologies.

The Crawley, England-based test and assurance solutions provider said it agreed to a £1.16 billion takeover from the Santa Rosa, California-based manufacturer of electronics test and measurement equipment and software.

Spirent said the offer by Keysight was superior to the existing £1.01 billion bid by Viavi, a Chandler, Arizona-based manufacturer of testing and monitoring equipment for networks. Spirent had recommended the takeover by Viavi on March 5.

Amongst London’s small caps, abrdn Property Income lost 9.6%, after the real estate trust’s shareholders rejected a planned all-share merger with Custodian Property Income REIT, which itself surged 8.1%.

After the market close on Wednesday, API disclosed shareholders had failed to back the proposed merger with CREI in sufficient numbers.

API said the total votes in favour of implementing the merger were 61% of API shares voted at the court meeting, 61% of API shares voted at the general meeting, and 86% by number of API shareholders who voted at the court meeting.

This falls short of the 75% threshold required by value of API shares at both the court meeting and general meeting, and a majority in number of API shareholders voting at the court meeting, API said.

As a result, API intends to implement a managed wind-down as previously announced.

Brent oil was quoted at $86.56 a barrel at the London equities close Thursday, down from $85.41 late Wednesday.

Gold was quoted at $2,221.01 an ounce at the London equities close Thursday, up against $2,190.33 at the close on Wednesday.

In Tuesday’s UK corporate calendar, there are no events scheduled currently. On Wednesday, there are full year results from Hilton Food Group and Impax Environmental Markets.

Whilst markets in the UK will be closed on Easter Monday, there are manufacturing PMIs from the US Canada, Japan and China.

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Issue Date: 28 Mar 2024