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FTSE 100 Live 23 February: Flat London blue-chips in contrast with Wall Street records, Standard Chartered up

FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)
FTSE 100 Live (Evening Standard)

Wall Street’s AI-fuelled momentum continues to put London in the shade amid another lacklustre performance by the FTSE 100 index.

Semiconductor giant Nvidia added $277 billion (£218.7 billion) to its market value last night, while the S&P 500 index rose 2% to a fresh all-time high.

Today’s highlights in London include results by Standard Chartered, with the Asia-focused lender’s shares higher following the 2023 performance.

FTSE 100 Live Friday

  • Standard Chartered profits beat hopes

  • Energy cap lowest in two years

  • Record US session amid Nvidia frenzy

The case against Trump: this wasn't it

Friday 23 February 2024 17:24 , Simon English

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Last week Donald Trump took a supposedly massive blow to his reputation when a New York judge said he had been overstating the value of his real estate empire to secure loans from banks.

Judge Arthur Engoron ordered penalties of $355 million and barred the would-be President from running any New York company for three years.

It has become necessary when saying anything in defence of Trump to point out that he is otherwise completely awful. So there you go – he’s awful, on his worst days looking like a menace to nearly all of us.

A balanced look at what he is supposed to have done on this occasion however provokes laughter.

He exaggerated the value of his assets in order to get a property loan, a mortgage basically.

Since he was borrowing from large Wall Street banks, and since they all got repaid, it is very hard to see who the victim is here.

I suppose you could say it is the otherwise entirely honest member of the New York construction trade who might now be owner of what is called Trump Tower.

But that assumes this person even exists in an industry known for producing massive bullshitters of which Trump is merely the most visibly successful.

As if the rest of the property and construction industries are clean as a whistle. No sign of dodgy anything in either sector.

Same with banks. They’ve never been caught turning a blind eye to wrongdoing of any kind. It just never happens.

read more here

British Airways owner set to defy recession concerns with soaring sales

Friday 23 February 2024 14:13 , Daniel O'Boyle

The owner of British Airways is set to report soaring sales last year, shrugging off fears that the UK’s recent recession has dented demand for holidays.

International Airlines Group (IAG), which also owns airlines IberiaVueling and Aer Lingus, will publish its financial results for 2023 on Thursday.

The aviation giant is expected to report sales totalling just shy of 30 billion euros (£25 billion), a record yearly amount for the group and more than a quarter higher than the prior year.

Read more here

Read more here

Serco Leisure ordered to stop using facial recognition tech on workers

Friday 23 February 2024 12:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

The UK privacy and data protection watchdog has ordered Serco Leisure to stop using facial recognition technology to monitor the attendance of leisure centre employees.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that Serco Leisure and community leisure trusts were unlawfully processing the biometric data of more than 2,000 employees at 38 leisure facilities across the UK.

It said facial recognition and fingerprint scanning were used to monitor workers’ attendance and then the subsequent payment for their time.

Read more here

Ryanair: UK flight tax puts regional airports at ‘enormous disadvantage’

Friday 23 February 2024 12:29 , Daniel O'Boyle

UK airports are being put at an “enormous disadvantage” because of air passenger duty (APD), Ryanair has claimed.

Chief commercial officer Jason McGuinness said many airports outside London are being “hamstrung” because the tax limits growth in flight capacity.

Passengers with economy tickets for UK departures are charged APD at a rate of £6.50 for domestic flights and £13 for short-haul trips.

Read more here

Midday market snapshot

Friday 23 February 2024 12:02 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at our latest market snapshot with shares flat

What has happened in the car finance market and will customers be compensated?

Friday 23 February 2024 11:38 , Daniel O'Boyle

Lloyds has become the first UK bank to set aside hundreds of millions of pounds in case it has to compensate car finance customers, amid a major investigation into whether people overpaid on their loans.

The banking group revealed a provision worth £450 million to cover potential costs relating to the issue.

The PA news agency looks at what is being investigated and what could happen next for banks and consumers.

Read more here

FTSE 100 holds firm, energy supplier Yu surges 12%

Friday 23 February 2024 10:52 , Graeme Evans

The FTSE 100 index is 9.37 points higher at 7693.86, in sharp contrast to the US after the S&P 500’s earlier surge of 2% to a fresh all-time high.

The trigger for the Wall Street buying was Nvidia results, with the semiconductor giant worth almost $2 trillion after yesterday’s record $277 billion (£218.7 billion) jump in valuation.

In London, Rolls-Royce followed its 8% results-day advance by falling 3.9p to 352.9p as the FTSE 100’s best performer of the past year succumbed to a bout of profit taking. Advertising group WPP also remained under pressure, falling 22.6p to 708p.

Mining and banking stocks gave some support in the FTSE 100 as Anglo American rose 20.6p to 1790.4p and HSBC put back 8.5p to 599p after their results earlier in the week.

The FTSE 250 retreated 68.07 points to 19,195.43, with Domino’s Pizza UK under pressure after Barclays cut its target price to 400p. Shares fell 12.8p to 354.4p.

Among small-caps, Yu Group surged another 12% or 144p to 1304p after the supplier of electricity, gas and water to business customers struck a new trading agreement with Shell Energy.

Nottingham-based Yu, which has doubled in value after a series of profit upgrades in the past year, said the new hedging facility will free up over £50 million of cash currently posted as collateral.

Game owner Frasers builds Hornby stake

Friday 23 February 2024 10:45 , Graeme Evans

Hornby shares jumped by a third today after it emerged that Sports Direct owner Frasers had a near-9% stake in the model trains-to-planes firm.

The investment by the FTSE 100 group builds on a relationship that already sees Hornby products sold in Frasers’ 320 Game stores and concessions.

Hornby boss Olly Raeburn said: “We look forward to exploring commercial opportunities in working together to unlock the full potential of Hornby's much loved brands."

Frasers also has stakes in a number of other UK retailers, including Currys, AO World and ASOS.

Chief financial officer Chris Wootton said: "Frasers Group has a vision to build the planet's most admired and compelling brand ecosystem.

“Hornby's portfolio of unique heritage brands are already part of GAME's product offer and we look forward to exploring opportunities to further leverage our scale in retail logistics and distribution.”

Hornby shares rose 7.25p to 28.25p.

'Conflicting' data on prices

Friday 23 February 2024 10:05 , Daniel O'Boyle

In a thread on X, Panmure Gordon economist Simon French explains the “conflicting” data on UK prices, and we he believes the Bank of England should hold interest rates.

Click to read the full thread.

Leeds on the up, again

Friday 23 February 2024 09:42 , Simon English

LEEDS Building Society enjoyed another strong year, though warned it would cut mortgage lending on holiday homes.

The society made profit of £181 million, down from £220 million a year ago, but still the second best in its 149-year history.

Society membership increased by 10% to a record high of 919,000, with 122,000 new savings members and 35,000 new mortgage members.

Mortgage lending was £4.4 billion, down from £5 billion a year ago.

The society has worked with North Norfolk District Council and North Yorkshire Council to set up a 12-month trial during which it will stop new loans for holiday let homes. Each authority has identified where housing pressures are most serious and holiday let lending will be restricted in those areas from the end of March.

CEO Richard Fearon said: "In some areas holiday lets have grown to have a significant stranglehold on the pipeline of homes available for local people to live in. Our decision adds to the arsenal of options available to local authorities to balance local housing needs with economic benefits in a way which leaves power in the hands of the local authorities.

"We will learn through the trial how effective this measure can be in increasing the supply of residential homes and gain greater insight on steps that can make a positive difference."

Standard Chartered enjoys share price jump of 8%

Friday 23 February 2024 09:35 , Simon English

STANDARD Chartered boss Bill Winters complained today that investors aren’t giving his shares proper respect today saying they are too worried by “downside concerns” to the world economy.

The Asian focussed bank reported full year profits of $5.1 billion, up 19%, and unveiled a $1 billionshare buyback.

The stock duly jumped 50p, 8%, to 655p which values the business at £17.5 billion. In the last 12 months theyare still down 14% and are off by a third since he became CEO nearly nine years ago.

Winters said: “Our share price reflects little of our optimism about prospects and seems heavily influenced by downside (geopolitical) concerns,” he said, the latest City boss to complain about valuations on London’s equitymarkets.

Winters got paid £7.8 million last year, far more than the CEOs of UK based rivals such as Lloyds Bank, whereCEO Charlie Nunn got £3.7 million, its annual report disclosed yesterday.

Winters reckons Standard will benefit from its Asian focus in what will be a tricky year for the globaleconomy.

He said: “We are in a privileged position to take advantage of significant growth opportunities that will continue to come from the markets in our footprint, generating value for our clients and the communities in which weoperate.”

He added: “Whilst we expect global growth to stay below potential at 2.9% in 2024, as high-interest rates put a drag on consumers as well as investment spending, Asia is likely to be the fastest-growing regioncontinuing to drive global growth, expanding by 4.%.”

Leeds Building Society to restrict holiday let lending in some parts of England

Friday 23 February 2024 09:30 , Daniel O'Boyle

A building society will restrict mortgage lending on holiday lets in some tourist hotspots in England.

The chief executive of Leeds Building Society, which is making the restrictions, said holiday lets have a “stranglehold” on the pipeline of homes available for local people in some locations.

The society has worked with North Norfolk District Council and North Yorkshire Council to set up a 12-month trial, during which it will stop new loans for holiday let homes.

Lending will be restricted from the end of March.

Read more here

Standard Chartered leads FTSE 100, downgrade hits Domino's Pizza

Friday 23 February 2024 08:47 , Graeme Evans

London’s top flight is 6.19 points higher at 7690.68, led by Standard Chartered after lower impairment charges meant annual results beat City expectations.

Standard’s shares lifted 6% or 39.2p to 644.8p, with fellow Asia-facing bank HSBC up 8.2p to 598.7p after heavy post-results selling earlier in the week.

Anglo American also improved 35p to 1804.8p, but WPP dropped another 17.2p to 713.4p on top of yesterday’s 6% decline. Rolls-Royce was 4.3p cheaper at 352.5p, having jumped 8% in the previous session.

The FTSE 250 index fell 62.39 points to 19,201.11, with Domino’s Pizza under pressure after Barclays cut its target price to 400p. Shares dropped 3% or 11.8p to 355.4p.

Market snapshot: Blue-chips a little higher

Friday 23 February 2024 08:39 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 picked up some modest gains this morning, led by Standard Chartered.

Take a look at today’s market snapshot

Standard Chartered profits (and CEO pay) jumps

Friday 23 February 2024 07:58 , Simon English

Standard Chartered boss Bill Winters was paid £7.87 million last year making him one of the best based FTSE 100 CEOs.

His finance director Andy Halford also got a chunky £4.9 million, both well up on a year ago. Winters admitted his share price performance is underwhelming. “Our share price reflects little of our optimism about prospects and seems heavily influenced by downside (geopolitical) concerns,” he said.

The Asia focussed bank made profits in the last quarter of $1.1 billion and $5.1 billion for the full year, up 19%.

Critics of the sector say the gap between shareholder returns and executive pay has never been wider.Winters said: “We are in a privileged position to take advantage of significant growth opportunities that willcontinue to come from the markets in our footprint, generating value for our clients and the communities in which we operate.”

He added: “Whilst we expect global growth to stay below potential at 2.9% in 2024, as high-interest rates put a drag on consumers as well as investment spending, Asia is likely to be the fastest-growing region continuing to driveglobal growth, expanding by 4.9%”

Chemring order book reaches £991 million in 'increasingly robust' global defence markets

Friday 23 February 2024 07:49 , Michael Hunter

Chemring, the FTSE 250 defence contractor. said its order book reached £991 million by the end of January, with the “outlook for global defence markets is increasingly robust”.

It said that it now had sufficient orders to cover 87% of the revenue to meet its full-year financial targets, alongside the revenue it has already generated.

The strained global geopoliitcal environment, with wars raging in Ukraine and Gaza, has boosted governments’ spending on defence. Chemring said today that its contract providing the British Army’s “Land Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance Programme”, known as Project Zodiac, had been boosted by £10 million. The contract is now worth £50 million over the next two years.

Chemring also said that “severe winter weather conditions” had interrupted manufacturing at its countermeasures and energetics sites in the northern hemisphere, causing delivery delays in the first quarter.

The group’s half-year results for the six months to the end of April are due in early June.

Consumer confidence dips in February

Friday 23 February 2024 07:37 , Graeme Evans

The recent upturn in consumer confidence stalled last month after GfK’s barometer fell two points to 21, still much better than minus 38 a year ago.

Among the sub-measures, there was encouragement that optimism regarding personal finance situations for the next 12 months has not slipped back.

The score of zero is a significant improvement on the minus 18 of February 2023, although on major purchases the reading fell five points to minus 25.

The view of the general economic situation over the next 12 months fell three points to minus 24.

CAB Payments boss out months after float disaster

Friday 23 February 2024 07:32 , Daniel O'Boyle

The boss of fintech CAB Payments is leaving the firm, three months after a catastrophic profit warning that prompted experts to call the firm’s 2023 listing one of the worst floats of recent years.

Bhairav Trivedi will step down as CEO on 26 March and become a senior adviser to its board, where he will “o build increasingly strong relationships with central banks, regulators, current and prospective strategic customers, and other senior industry participants”.

Replaxcing Trivedi will be Neeraj Kapur, who was most recently chief finance officer of Vanquis Bank.

Ann Cairns, Chair of the Board, said: “On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Bhairav for his commitment and contribution, which has positioned the Company as a leader in its field. Under his leadership the Company more than doubled its revenue. I am delighted Bhairav has agreed to continue to represent, advise and support CAB Payments going forward.

“The company remains committed to serving our loyal customer base and gaining new customers across Europe and the US. We look forward to expanding our network and capabilities and entering new FX and payments markets across the world.”

CAB was one of the rare companies to float on the London Stock Exchange in 2023, IPOing in July. However its share price slid in the first few months before plunging on the back of an October profit warning. Its shares have more than doubled in value since their October lows, sitting at 102p, but they’re still worth only a third of the IPO price.

Record US session amid Nvidia frenzy, FTSE 100 seen flat

Friday 23 February 2024 07:21 , Graeme Evans

Trading in London continues to be in sharp contrast to events on Wall Street, where stock markets have surged to fresh record levels.

The S&P 500 index rose 2.1% and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 3% after results by Nvidia sent shares in the semiconductor giant 16% higher to a near $2 trillion valuation.

Deutsche Bank points out that Nvidia added $277 billion (£218.7 billion) to its market capitalisation, the biggest single session rise in value terms and better than the $197 billion (£155.5 billion) by Meta Platforms earlier this month.

The advance has returned Nvidia to fourth place in the rankings of the world’s largest companies and the third largest in the S&P 500.

Advanced Micro Devices also jumped 11% on the AI-fuelled technology buying, although other sectors also fared well as the Dow Jones Industrial rose 1.2%.

In London, the FTSE 100 index is not expected to replicate the strong gains after IG Index forecast another broadly flat performance today.

Energy price cap down to £1,690

Friday 23 February 2024 07:07 , Daniel O'Boyle

Ofgem has announced that the energy price cap will fall to by 12.3% from 1 April, a major decrease that brings energy prices to their lowest level since the invasion of Ukraine sent prices rocketing.

The headline cap figure - which is based off the average amount a household would spend in a year - will fall to £1,690. That’s down from £1,928. The actual cap is imposed on a per-unit basis, and so many households, especially larger ones, would be likely to spend more than this.

Ofgem said: “Despite reaching this welcome milestone, Ofgem recognises that the cost of living remains high and many customers continue to struggle with their bills as standing charges rise and energy debt reaches a record figure of £3.1 billion. “

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Friday 23 February 2024 06:59 , Daniel O'Boyle

We had the so called “technical recession” at the back end of last year. Are we now at the start of a “technical recovery”? 

Today’s decent UK PMI numbers for February provide the glimpse of a green shoot or two with the composite index at its highest level for nine months.

At face value they suggest that GDP is set for a return to growth of some sort in the first quarter. But as every gardener knows, those tender stems remain vulnerable until the last frost of spring.

And a closer reading of the PMI release suggests that there are still many cold nights ahead. The big worry — as it has been for the past two years — is inflation. According to Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, which compiles the PMI data, “there are a number of areas of concern.”

The survey reveals that Red Sea shipping disruption has resulted in the highest level of supply chain delays since summer 2022.

Those elevated shipping costs have inevitably been passed on with selling prices rising at their fastest rate for nine months. Worryingly, service sector inflation “also ticked higher.”

The survey suggests that — after an energy bill-related dip in April — inflation may get stuck at around the 4% mark, twice the Bank of England’s target. Andrew Bailey said this week that interest rate-cutting could begin before the sunny uplands of a 2% CPI are reached.

But with two rate-rise hawks still perched on the Monetary Policy Committee it seems unlikely that a dove majority could push through an economy-boosting cut while inflation stays stubbornly high.

So while any signs of an upturn in activity, confidence and growth are to be warmly welcomed, the recent encouraging hopes of a rapid reduction in borrowing costs in the second half of 2024 may yet turn out to be merely “technical” optimism.

Here’s  the rest of our top stories from yesterday: