While the pound is getting a lift this morning on press reports that a Brexit deal is being ‘hammered out’ with the European Union, corporate results are weighing on stocks with the FTSE 100 index slipping 0.6% to 7,182.

Star pupil and topping the leader board up 3% to 164p is Barclays (BARC) which reported full year earnings in line with market estimates.

Unlike HSBC (HSBA) there were no dramas in its Markets division, where revenues were down just 2.5%, which should bolster chief executive Jess Staley in his fight with activist investors pushing for the sale of the investment bank.

Investors are also heartened by Barclays’ capital return policy and the prospect of rising dividends together with share buybacks ‘as and when appropriate’.

The warm glow is extended to Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) which reported better than expected numbers yesterday and continues to make new highs up another 0.9% to 61.6p, while Standard Chartered (STAN) also adds 0.9% to 622p.

Another rare gainer is information provider RELX (REL), up 2% to £17.20 after reporting a steady rise in 2018 sales and profits and announcing another £600m share buyback for this year.

However taking the FTSE lower is utility group Centrica (CNA) with shares down 11% at 122p after the company warned that this year’s earnings and cash flow would be impacted by the price cap on energy bills and lower nuclear output.

Fear that lower cash generation might hinder the company's ability to pay dividends has traders reaching for the Sell button.

Joining Centrica in the ‘sin bin’ is defence contractor BAe Systems (BA.) with shares down 6% to 476p despite reporting steady 2018 sales and earnings and a record defence order book.

Traders have decided instead to focus on the firm’s cautionary comment that some aircraft orders to Saudi Arabia might be impacted by Germany’s position on export licences.

Recruiter Hays (HAS) sees its shares trade 9% lower at 144p despite delivering strong first half results including record net fee income in 20 countries.

Also on the losing side is miner Anglo American (AAL) with shares down 0.5% to £20.11 after reporting full year results which were better than expectations across the board and an improvement in its balance sheet.

However the day’s big casualty is online estate agent Purplebricks (PURP) which sees its shares smashed down 29% to 117p after it cuts its sales guidance in part due to a ‘slower than expected response’ to its latest US marketing drive.

There is also the surprise news that the US and UK chief executives will both leave the business ‘shortly’ after just two years in their respective posts.

 

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Issue Date: 21 Feb 2019