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FTSE 100 Live 19 April: Index closes up for day, down for week; S&P below 5000

FTSE 100 Live 19 April: Index closes up for day, down for week; S&P below 5000

The FTSE 100 is trading lower today amid renewed fears over the situation in the Middle East.

Man Group and the William Hill owner 888 Holdings have posted updates, while the latest retail sales figures have also been released.

FTSE 100 Live Friday

  • Blue-chips lower on Middle East fears

  • Barclays lifts mortgage rates

  • Retail sales below expectations

S&P below 5000 for first time since February

Friday 19 April 2024 16:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

In the US, the S&P 500 is at 4,992.92, down 0.4% for the day.

The Wall Street index appears to be on for its longest losing streak since October.

It’s down 3% this week, and 5.2% since its record high just before Easter.

FTSE 100 closes up for day, down for week

Friday 19 April 2024 16:37 , Daniel O'Boyle

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The FTSE 100 closed the day up 0.2% at 7,895.85, despite an early fall.

However, that still leaves it down 1.3% for the week, after the biggest drop in nine months on Tuesday.

Mondi was by far the top riser and DS Smith the top faller, after the former pulled out of the running to buy the latter.

FTSE in positive territory.

Friday 19 April 2024 15:56 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 is in positive territory after a strong rally, at 7,888.23.

But that still leaves it down 1.3% for the week.

Meanwhile in the US, the S&P 500 fell back below the 5000 mark, before picking back up. It remains close to the psychologically significant number.

US stocks open flat, Nasdaq down

Friday 19 April 2024 14:37 , Daniel O'Boyle

Shares on Wall Street have opened flat after yesterday’s fall, with the longest losing streak since October threatening to continue.

the S&P 500 is down five points at 5,006.27, at risk of falling back below 5000.

The Dow Jones is up 70 points at 37,845.63.

the Nasdaq’s struggles have gone on though, down 0.4% at 15,528.50. It’s down 4.6% this week.

Billionaire Issa brother nears deal to sell Asda stake to TDR Capital

Friday 19 April 2024 14:34 , Daniel O'Boyle

TDR Capital is closing in on a deal to buy gas-station billionaire Zuber Issa’s stake in Asda as the private-equity firm tightens its grip on one of Britain’s biggest supermarket chains, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The agreement for Issa’s 22.5% stake would give TDR majority control and could be announced in coming weeks, the people said, asking not to be named with negotiations in flux.

They declined to specify the terms being discussed. TDR’s holding in Asda would rise to about two-thirds, while the transaction would further the dismantling of the relationship between brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa.

Read more here

Lack of transparency around insurance driving low trust levels, MPs hear

Friday 19 April 2024 14:27 , Daniel O'Boyle

UK consumers believe insurance is becoming more of a “rip-off”, a committee of MPs has heard.

Treasury Committee member Dame Angela Eagle told a hearing into insurance: “My constituents and many people who write to the committee feel that insurance is becoming more of a rip-off.

“Because the price is going up, it’s harder to make a claim; people, when they do make a claim, often have to wait a very long time or aren’t dealt with very fairly.

Read more here

Building society reforms ‘will support more working people to become homeowners

Friday 19 April 2024 13:44 , Daniel O'Boyle

More first-time buyers are expected to be helped onto the property ladder by building society reforms backed by MPs.

The Building Societies Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill has moved closer to becoming law after it received an unopposed third reading in the Commons on Friday.

The Government-backed Bill aims to modernise societies by expanding their lending capacity, with Labour insisting the changes would support “more working people to become homeowners”.

Read more here

UK banks set to report lower earnings as they retreat from 2023 highs

Friday 19 April 2024 13:11 , Daniel O'Boyle

The UK’s biggest high street banks are set to report lower profits over the start of the year, after a bumper 2023 which saw earnings peak as borrowing costs soared.

Lloyds, Barclays and NatWest will be updating shareholders on their first-quarter financial results on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively.

The banking sector was buoyed last year by UK interest rates hitting their highest level for more than a decade, meaning lenders benefited from the cost of borrowing, particularly mortgages, surging.

Read more here

Tributes as Standard City ace Chris Locke dies at 66

Friday 19 April 2024 12:57 , Daniel O'Boyle

One of the Evening Standard’s longest-serving journalists, City production editor Chris Locke, has died at the age of 66.

Locke joined the paper in 1992 as a sub-editor on the features desk and quickly rose to become features production editor, a job he did for eight years.

After a brief spell at Newsweek he rejoined the Standard in 2018 as City production editor. It was a post he held up until his death earlier this week.

Read more about the man behind the Standard’s pink business pages, and behind the stumps for Putney’s Bricklayer’s Arms club, here

Train drivers at LNER to strike in row over terms and conditions

Friday 19 April 2024 12:45 , Daniel O'Boyle

Rail services between London, the North and Scotland will be disrupted on Saturday because of a strike by train drivers.

Members of Aslef at LNER will walk out for the day in a dispute over terms and conditions.

The company said it will run a reduced service between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley, and King’s Cross and Leeds.

Read more here

Mondi pulls out of DS Smith race, clearing path for International Paper

Friday 19 April 2024 12:24 , Daniel O'Boyle

Mondi has officially pulled out of the running to buy DS Smith, clearing the path for US firm International Paper to buy the FTSE 100 packaging giant.

Mondi had previously proposed a mega-merger with DS Smith, to create a £10-billion-pound packaging behemoth. But International Paper swooped in with a bid of its own, which was recommended by the DS Smith board. Shareholders had hoped an even better offer from Mondi could be on the way.

But today, Mondi said it would not make a bid.

It said: “Following a period of due diligence, and after carefully considering the value the combination with DS Smith would deliver to Mondi's shareholders, the Mondi Board has decided that the transaction would not be in the best interests of its shareholders. Accordingly, Mondi does not intend to make an offer for DS Smith.

“Mondi's Board remains confident that its compelling portfolio of sustainable packaging and paper products, scale and cost advantaged quality asset base, along with its pipeline of organic investments, ensure it is well positioned to deliver long-term structural growth in the markets in which it operates, delivering strong cash generation, attractive returns and sustainable value accretive growth for shareholders. “

DS Smith shares fell 8% on the news. Mondi rose by 9%.

Market snapshot with FTSE 100 down

Friday 19 April 2024 11:56 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at the latest market data with the FTSE 100 on for the worst week in three months

Oil and gold ease back after early surge

Friday 19 April 2024 11:48 , Daniel O'Boyle

The shockwaves sent through global financial markets by Israel’s apparent airstrikes against Iran sent oil prices higher and shares tumbling.

The price of Brent Crude, the international benchmark, shot up more than $3 a barrel to breach the $90 mark in overnight trading in Asian markets when news broke.

However, it later fell back again in the hope that the conflict can be contained. By late morning it was up only 15 cents at $87.26.

Gold added $1 to $2,400 an ounce. London’s main stock market benchmark, the FTSE 100 fell by around 50 points to 7,828, putting it on course for its biggest weekly drop in three months.

Broker AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “The FTSE100 opened lower amid fluctuating tensions in the Middle East as markets tried to gauge potential escalation. Gold moved within touching distance of all-time highs.”

Homes and Property: Mysterious investor plans to turn Chiswick Tower into 415-bedroom 'co-living' block

Friday 19 April 2024 11:38 , Daniel O'Boyle

The private client investor buying Chiswick Tower in west London has plans to turn it into a 415-bed co-living space, Evening Standard Homes & Property has learned.

Its 190-space car park would be turned into an “affordable housing scheme“ as part of these plans.

ASK Partners (ASK) has provided a £18.2 million loan to support the acquisition of the office block, the property lender announced today.

Read more here

City Comment: Only one person can save the economy now… Gareth Southgate

Friday 19 April 2024 11:27

Good news: people are getting better off. At last.

This week’s wages and inflation figures definitively proved that, with pay up 6% and inflation running at just above 3%.

Throw into the mix Jeremy Hunt’s National Insurance cut that came into effect in January (with another on the way in this month’s pay packets) and most people in work should feel the load finally easing. So why are they not spending more?

Read more here

No early Easter boost for high street as retail sales flatline

Friday 19 April 2024 10:44 , Daniel O'Boyle

Hopes of an early Easter boost for the long suffering high street were dashed today when official figures showed retail sales flatlined in March.

The “lacklustre” performance was well below City forecasts of around 0.3% growth and follows a 0.1% rise in February.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed sales volumes at department stores were worst hit, falling 3.8%, a figure that does not bode well for the recovery of John Lewis.

Read more here

'Work from pub' is 40% cheaper than booking a coworking space for the day, research finds

Friday 19 April 2024 10:19 , Daniel O'Boyle

Working from a pub is 40% cheaper than booking a coworking space for the day, saving Brits an average of £9 a day, according to a new analysis.

Figures from catering supplier Alliance Online analysed the cost of five nationwide coworking spaces and six major pub chains that offer workspace deals. It found that a table at a pub for the day comes out at £13 on average, compared to £22 at the coworking spaces.

However most coworking spaces offer monthly deals as well, at lower prices per day. The analysis found that the average monthly cost at a coworking space is £253. That is slightly less than the cost of 20 days - a normal working schedule - at the pub. For those working every single day in the month, as would be possible with a monthly coworking deal, the pub is more than 50% more expensive.

Read more here

Barclays ups mortgage interest rates after this week's inflation disappointment

Friday 19 April 2024 09:31 , Daniel O'Boyle

Barclays has become the first major lender to raise its mortgage rates after this week’s disappointing inflation figures led to fears that the Bank of England might not cut interest rates until the Autumn

The banking giant announced a number of product changes today, including reducing some rates, but the majority of its changes, especially for new mortgages, were up. It’s the second time in three weeks that Barclays has announced price increases and reductions at the same time.

The changes come after figures yesterday showed inflation falling more slowly than expected, to 3.2% in March. Services inflation, closely watched by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, remained especially sticky at 6.0%.

Read more here

Retail 'stuck in the doldrums'

Friday 19 April 2024 08:39 , Daniel O'Boyle

Following today’s stagnant retail sales figures, Danni Hewson, AJ Bell head of financial analysis, said: “This is a sector stuck in the doldrums and these figures suggest that rather than surging out of recession the economy is once again flatlining. Brands that were already struggling to stay relevant are finding the current climate inhospitable and more holes have opened up on our high streets.

“The myriad of changes that came in at the start of April will have households doing their sums, working out whether they’re any better off thanks to wage increases and tax cuts or whether increases elsewhere have kept them in their financial rut.”

FTSE 100 down 0.5% as Rolls and airlines struggle, 888 shares up 3%

Friday 19 April 2024 08:35 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is down by about 0.5% or 36.83 points to 7840.22, a smaller decline than the 1% drop forecast earlier.

Gains of about 0.5% for defensively positioned Compass, SSE and Reckitt Benckiser offered support following the latest Middle East developments.

Airline stocks gave up yesterday’s gains as easyJet retreated 8p to 522p and British Airways owner IAG lost 3.8p to 166p. Rolls-Royce slipped 2% or 6.7p to 395.8p.

Last night’s weakness for US technology stocks impacted Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, which fell 20.7p to 803.5p.

The global uncertainty left the FTSE 250 index 0.8% or 158.29 points lower at 19,292.38. Man Group shares fell 5% or 13.4p to 255.2p after its trading update.

William Hill owner 888 Holdings rose 3% or 2.4p to 82.2p in the FTSE All-Share after it reported revenues ahead of expectations.

Friday 19 April 2024 07:59 , Michael Hunter

Thames Water’s struggles to secure backing from its existing shareholders are continuing, after London’s troubled utility confirmed it would not be releasing an ovehauled business plan today.

Its board has been meeting this week to come up with a new set of proposals after its previous plan was rejected as “univestible” by shareholders.

Then its parent company, Kemble Water, defaulted on a bond payment due this month. While the operating company has cash at hand to keep running, Kemble’s financial troubles raised the prospect of nationalisation.

There were hopes that the detail would be out today. But the heavily indebted 16-million customer company said there would be nothing released today.

Thames proposals filed to regulators for the 2025 to 2030 period lift total spending by 40% to £4.7 billion.

They come after a wave of public anger at the the amount of raw sewage overflowing into rivers and the extent of losses from mains supply.

But shareholders withdrew support, concerned that the proportion of the funding covered by higher water bills for Londoners was not enough.  The plans sent to Ofwat will mean a £14.55 monthly rise.

Thames revised business plan is expected next week .

Man Group, led by "force of nature Robyn Grew" sees assets jump

Friday 19 April 2024 07:51 , Simon English

Man Group, the world’s largest listed hedge fund, saw assets jump another $9 billion to $176 billion in the last three months as investors embraced its wide-ranging strategy – which largely involves avoiding London shares.

While listed in London itself, Man probably has less than 5% of its assets in its home market, with a bias towards US stocks.

Led by Robyn Grew, the former Lehman Brothers banker once dubbed a “force of nature”, saw assets in the three months to March rise from $167 billion to $176 billion.

It declines to be specific about how much it has in London stocks, but since its benchmark is the MSCI global index, which gives a 3.8% weighting to London, it is likely to largely skirt local shares.

Man Group shares open today at 268p, which values the business at £3.2 billion. They are up 29% in the last year.

The group won’t discuss whether it is “overweight” or underweight in UK shares, but notes it has several UK focussed funds.

The statement said: “Our clients and the millions of retirees and savers they represent are at the heart of everything we do. We form deep and long-lasting relationships and create tailored solutions to help meet their unique needs. We recognise that responsible investing is intrinsically linked to our fiduciary duty to our clients, and we integrate this approach broadly across the firm.”

Its investment rose in value by 9.8% in the quarter.

Retail sales still 1.2% below pre-Covid

Friday 19 April 2024 07:47 , Daniel O'Boyle

Nicholas Hyett, Investment Manager at Wealth Club, said: "Retailers had a gloomier March than many expected, and overall sales remain 1.2% below their pre-covid peak.

“The disappointing numbers will fuel speculation that the Bank of England will consider interest rate cuts this summer, though are not poor enough to necessitate a move. It leaves the UK a little limbo once more.”

Netflix shares seen lower despite strong first quarter

Friday 19 April 2024 07:43 , Graeme Evans

Netflix shares are poised to fall at Wall Street’s opening bell, despite the platform last night reporting a big jump in subscriber numbers.

First quarter revenues rose 15% from a year ago to $9.4 billion (£7.6 billion), driven by pricing and membership growth to 269.6 million from 232.5 million the year before and 260.3 million in the fourth quarter.

Operating income of $2.6 billion (£2.1 billion) rose 54%, a performance above the company’s forecast partly due to the timing of content spend. An operating margin of 28% grew seven percentage points year over year.

Shares fell in after-hours dealings, however, as paid net additions are expected to be lower in the current quarter due to seasonal factors. Netflix also said it would stop reporting quarterly membership numbers from next year.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Sophie Lund-Yates said: “Netflix is benefiting from its cheaper ad-supported tier, which is helping to capture customers that would otherwise stay away from the platform because of financial concerns.

“The bigger question now will be how Netflix continues to keep churn to a minimum, when rivals catch up with their own cheaper plans.”

'Retail recession over' despite March disappointment

Friday 19 April 2024 07:32 , Daniel O'Boyle

Alex Kerr at Capital Economics notes that the “retail recession” is at an end despite today’s disappointing figures, as sales were still up 1.9% for the first quarter.

Kerr said: “Indeed, despite the softer-than-expected data, retail sales still added almost 0.1 percentage points to real GDP growth in Q1. Moreover, the prospect of interest rate cuts and the boost to real household incomes, from falling inflation and the 2p cut to national insurance in April, suggest the recovery in consumer spending will continue throughout this year.

“However, today’s release may mean that the Bank of England is less worried about the possibility of a US-style resurgence in GDP growth and stalling in disinflation.”

Revenue down, but ahead of guidance, at William Hill owner 888

Friday 19 April 2024 07:30 , Daniel O'Boyle

Revenue fell at William Hill owner 888, soon to be renamed Evoke, in the first three months of the year, amid a slowdown at its betting shops.

But the firm still did better than expected, with the £431 million in revenue coming in slightly ahead of the top end of its guidance.

Betting shop revenue was down 7%, while UK online sports betting revenue dipped by 1%, which 888 was due to more Cheltenham promotional offers. However UK casino gaming and international markets performed better.

After cutting costs last year, 888 said today it will spend more on marketing in “profitable markets”.

CEO Per Widerstrom said: “"I am pleased to report that Q1 2024 revenue was slightly ahead of our guidance, with strong player volumes converting into improved revenue run rates. Having lapped various regulatory and compliance changes during the quarter, and with increased marketing investment supported by an exciting product pipeline, we remain confident in a return to growth from Q2 2024.”

FTSE 100 seen lower on Middle East fears, Brent Crude near $89 a barrel

Friday 19 April 2024 07:15 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is set to fall about 0.9% as traders react to developments in the Middle East and a weak finish for US stocks last night.

Brent Crude rose by about $4 at one point to a peak of $90.75 a barrel after it emerged that Israel had launched a missile strike against Iran.

The benchmark has since settled at $88.78, while the safe haven asset of gold is near $2382 an ounce after earlier surging above a record $2400.

Asia markets fell sharply this morning, with Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 down by more than 2% and the Hang Seng index 1.5% lower.

The selling also reflected a late retreat on Wall Street as the S&P 500 index finished 0.2% lower and the Nasdaq Composite lost another 0.5% to continue the run that’s left the tech-focused benchmark at a two-month low.

Retail sales disappoint with no growth

Friday 19 April 2024 07:06 , Daniel O'Boyle

UK retail sales were flat in March, as food sales fell, in a new sign of sluggishness in the UK economy.

The figures aren’t so bad that recession fears are renewed but a sign that the economy is only back to stagnation rather than real growth.

Economists had expected growth of 0.3%.

ONS senior statistician Heather Bovill said: “Retail sales registered no growth in March. Hardware stores, furniture shops, petrol stations and clothing stores all reported a rise in sales. However, these gains were offset by falling food sales and in department stores where retailers say higher prices hit trading.

“Looking at the longer-term picture, across the latest three months retail sales increased after a poor Christmas.”

Good morning - FTSE 100 Live

Friday 19 April 2024 07:03 , Daniel O'Boyle

Good morning from the City desk of the Evening Standard.

There’s an interesting court case today at London’s Commercial Court, the Rolls Building, Mr Justice Meade presiding.

The case could put a spanner in the works of Nationwide Building Society’s £2.9 billion takeover of Virgin Money, or at least delay it long enough for Nationwide members who just hate this deal in the first place to get their act together.

One box that has to be ticked is for 75% of Virgin Money shareholders to give it approval.

At issue is whether Richard Branson’s Virgin Group counts as an ordinary shareholder.

It owns 15% of the stock, but it also has a special licensing deal for use of the brand name, which is worth about £250 million on top of the £400 million it gets for the stake.

So, effectively, he gets £3.60 a share, and other investors get £2.20.

To my mind £2.20 a share is already too much for this ragtag bank formed of various mergers and given a red lick of smiley paint.

And if you aren’t already suspicious about this deal, that Branson gets £650 million from it ought to make you so. At its worst, it could ruin Nationwide and make everyone’s future mortgage more expensive. For ever.

The other “ordinary” shareholders include Allan Gray, a South African fund manager, and the Americans BlackRock, Vanguard and JP Morgan.

They have zero concern for the future of Nationwide Building Society, needless to say, but they might decide they want the same terms as the Branson deal under the misguided impression that Virgin Money is worth more than £2.9 billion (it isn’t).

In which case, there’s a hitch to say the least.

Here’s the rest of yesterday’s news: