London stocks decline in early trade on Friday as China’s economic growth slows further in the first quarter. China’s gross domestic product rose 6.7% year-on-year in the first three months of the year, down from 6.8% the previous quarter. The figure was in line with analysts’ estimates but marked the slowest quarterly growth for China since the height of the financial crisis in 2009.
Investors react by marking down the FTSE 100 index by around 20 points, or 0.3%, to 6,348, although midcaps take a heavier bashing, the FTSE 250 market falling 110 points, or 0.6%, to 16,891.
Investors deliver a huge blow to BP (BP.) management after 59% of shareholders voted against CEO Bob Dudley's 20% pay hike proposal. That spins the shares 1.7% lower to 356.85p. A similar large vote against executive pay at medial firm Smith & Nephew (SN.) has many market watchers wondering if this could be the start of a wave of shareholder action against boardroom pay hikes.
It's an otherwise relatively quiet end to the week for corporates with a handful of changes to forecasts about as exciting as it gets. Bookie William Hill (WMH) slides 1.2% to 329.5p after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to 'neutral' from 'buy' and cut the target price to 380p from 460p.
Discounter Poundland (PLND) is also in the red after HSBC downgraded it to 'hold' from 'buy' and slashed its target price from 290p to 160p after disappointingly slow growth in core trading with no recovery expected until the second half of 2017.
FTSE 250 fund manager Man Group (EMG) rallies 5.2% to 159p as a first quarter trading update reveals its AHL quantitative hedge fund-style strategy helped partially offset losses in its long-only product set in a volatile trading period.
Distributor Acal (ACL) adds 5.8% to 259p following a pre-close trading statement ahead of full year results to be announced on 1 June. Organic growth in its custom distribution unit slumped 7% but investors are instead focusing on a 3% like-for-like sales gain in its Design & Manufacturing division which means underlying full-year profit should be 'slightly ahead' of management's expectations.
North Africa focused oil and gas producer Circle Oil (COP:AIM) gains 17.7% to 2.5p as it secures a reprieve from its lender, World Bank member the IFC. The bank has agreed to extend the suspension of the redetermination of and any repayments due under the company's reserve based lending facility as it progresses a strategic review of its assets.
Deal-hungry carpets maker Victoria (VCP:AIM) cheapens 8.4% to £14.55 on disappointment discussions with European peer Lano Carpets over a possible acquisition have ceased. Charismatic chairman Geoff Wilding insists, however, that the Kidderminster-based floor coverings specialist continues to pursue deals and talks are already underway with businesses in the UK and overseas.
Elsewhere global parenting products purveyor Mothercare (MTC) is marked up 5.5p to 155p, investors swooping following yesterday's sharp falls; this followed a downbeat fourth quarter update flagging continuing overseas woes.
Romania-focused property developer Global Real Estate Investments (GWI:AIM) rises 1% to 5.1p on the value of its net assets beating expectations to grow by 11% to €9.08 per share in 2015. New developments hitting the market and valuation gains are behind the rise.