London midday: Stocks inch lower on mixed data and earnings


LONDON (ShareCast) - - AB Foods jumps, ARM and Sports Direct (Frankfurt: A0MK5S - news) fall
- UK borrowing falls more than expected
- Chinese manufacturing still in contraction
- Eurozone business activity improves

techMARK 2,740.84 +0.09%
FTSE 100 6,670.05 -0.18%
FTSE 250 15,991.94 -0.56%

UK stocks pulled back from a three-week high on Wednesday, but were trading within a narrow range as investors digested mixed economic data and a host of corporate earnings.

Primark owner Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF.L - news) was a stand-out performer, rising sharply after announcing plans to open its first store in the States as it rolls out the fast-growing fashion outlet overseas.

Quarterly trading updates from ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L - news) and Sports Direct, however, disappointed investors this morning with both stocks falling sharply.

The FTSE 100 was down 12 points, or 0.2%, at 6,670.05 by midday, with just 27 points separating its intra-day low and high.

The index gained 0.9% on Tuesday on the back of heightened M&A activity and bid speculation in the global pharmaceutical sector, rising to 6,681.76, its highest close since April 4th.

In economic data today, UK public sector net borrowing slipped to £6.7bn in March, from £8.8bn the month before, according to the Office for National Statistics, well below the consensus estimate of £11bn.

Purchasing managers' indices (PMIs) from across the globe were also in focus, including a private survey in China which showed that the manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth straight month in April. The PMI (Other OTC: PMIR - news) improved from 48 to 48.3, in line with expectations but still under the key 50-point threshold that separates growth from contraction.

The Eurozone composite PMI rose from 53.1 to a 35-month high of 54 in April, ahead of expectations, as activity in both manufacturing and services increased.

The manufacturing PMI in the US is also due out later on and is expected to show that growth picked up this month. Meanwhile, results from Wall Street giants Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - news) and Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) after the closing bell this evening will likely be closely watched by investors.

In other news, the minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee's last rate-setting meeting showed that the decision to keep monetary policy unchanged was supported by the full majority of its members.

AB Foods jumps on US expansion, results

AB Foods jumped after saying that it would open new Primark stores in north-east US. The chain, which already has stores in nine countries in Western Europe, has signed a lease for 70,000 square feet of selling space in Boston and will open the shop towards the end of 2015. Further stores are planned across the wider region through to the middle of 2016.

The company also reported a 4% increase in adjusted pre-tax profits to £468m for the 24 weeks to March 1st, helped by a 26% jump in operating profits at Primark.

AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - news) was continuing to rise on speculation that US pharmaceutical peer Pfizer (NYSE: PFE - news) could offer as much as £60bn to buy the company, representing the largest foreign takeover of a UK business on record. The stock, which rose 5% yesterday, was making solid gains this morning.

Similarly, GlaxoSmithKline (Other OTC: GLAXF - news) extended gains after yesterday unveiling a massive three-part deal with Swiss firm Novartis (Xetra: NOT.DE - news) , under which shareholders will receive a £4bn a capital return.

Chip designer ARM Holdings declined after the company's first-quarter results showed strong licensing revenues and weak royalties. Analysts at finnCap said that company remains on track to hit forecasts but it "is just not showing the growth rates to see the shares push beyond the current price-to-earnings ratio of 40".

High street sporting goods retailer Sports Direct was also lower after seeing a slight slowdown in growth in the fourth quarter. The company also warned of "further uncertainty" arising from its decision to cancel a controversial bonus payout to founder Mike Ashley earlier this month.

Retail-focused property group Hammerson (Other OTC: HMSNF - news) rose after giving a confident outlook, saying that an improving UK recovery filtered through to demand in the first quarter.

Antofagasta (Other OTC: ANFGF - news) was trading firmly in the red this morning after going ex-dividend, meaning that from today new investors won't be able to obtain the company's latest payout. FTSE 100-listed peers Aggreko (LSE: AGK.L - news) , BG Group (LSE: BG.L - news) , Centrica (LSE: CNA.L - news) , Legal & General (LSE: LGEN.L - news) , Mondi (LSE: MNDI.L - news) , Old Mutual (Other OTC: ODMTY - news) and Rolls-Royce were also trading without the rights to their latest dividends this morning.

A number of FTSE 250 stocks were also lower after going ex-dividend, including Hikma, Drax, Kentz (Frankfurt: 3UJ.F - news) and Tullett Prebon (LSE: TLPR.L - news) .

FTSE 100 - Risers
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,962.00p +8.82%
Admiral Group (LSE: ADM.L - news) (ADM) 1,399.00p +2.64%
AstraZeneca (EUREX: AZNF.EX - news) (AZN) 4,038.00p +1.97%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,683.00p +1.69%
Royal Mail (Other OTC: ROYMF - news) (RMG (Brussels: ROU.BR - news) ) 530.50p +1.63%
Tesco (Frankfurt: TS3.F - news) (TSCO) 296.90p +1.54%
Wolseley (Frankfurt: 24W2.F - news) (WOS) 3,410.00p +1.46%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,073.00p +1.42%
Experian (EUREX: EXPF.EX - news) (EXPN) 1,121.00p +1.26%
Hammerson (HMSO) 580.00p +1.05%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO.L - news) (ANTO) 794.50p -5.92%
Centrica (Frankfurt: CENB.F - news) (CNA (SES: E2:5GC.SI - news) ) 330.80p -4.09%
Sports Direct International (Other OTC: SDISY - news) (SPD) 799.50p -3.67%
Old Mutual (OML) 196.60p -3.63%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 197.30p -3.33%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 954.50p -2.90%
Aberdeen Asset Management (Other OTC: ABDNF - news) (ADN) 432.20p -2.61%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 207.00p -2.45%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L - news) (AHT) 878.50p -2.44%
Standard Chartered (HKSE: 2888.HK - news) (STAN) 1,282.00p -2.25%

FTSE 250 - Risers
Spirent Communications (Other OTC: SPMYY - news) (SPT (Taiwan OTC: 8431.TWO - news) ) 104.80p +8.49%
Fenner (FENR) 409.40p +4.97%
Merlin Entertainments (Other OTC: MIINY - news) (MERL) 365.30p +3.72%
Centamin (DI (KSE: 003160.KS - news) ) (CEY) 54.65p +3.31%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 179.30p +3.28%
Petra Diamonds Ltd (LSE: PDL.L - news) .(DI) (PDL) 154.90p +2.79%
Daejan Holdings (LSE: DJAN.L - news) (DJAN) 4,984.00p +1.67%
SEGRO (Berlin: S4VC.BE - news) (SGRO) 349.40p +1.28%
3i Group (III) 391.70p +1.27%
Caledonia Investments (CLDN) 2,100.00p +1.20%

FTSE 250 - Fallers
Drax Group (LSE: DRX.L - news) (DRX) 662.00p -12.49%
Tullett Prebon (TLPR) 294.40p -5.67%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 183.00p -4.29% Group (MONY) 179.00p -4.07%
Balfour Beatty (Other OTC: BAFYY - news) (BBY) 289.60p -3.40%
Ocado Group (Other OTC: OCDGF - news) (OCDO) 363.00p -2.94%
Man Group (Other OTC: MNGPF - news) (EMG) 100.30p -2.72%
Bellway (BWY) 1,534.00p -2.67%
International Public Partnerships Ltd. (INPP) 126.10p -2.47%
Victrex plc (LSE: VCT.L - news) (VCT) 1,948.00p -2.31%


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