London pre-open: Stocks to open higher, lifted by US tech earnings


LONDON (ShareCast) - The FTSE 100 is set for a decent start to today's session, boosted by positive after- hours trading in the US last night, driven by strong results from technology giants Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) and Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - news) .

However, it was actually a negative finish for US stocks, putting a stop to the Standard & Poor's 500 Index's longest winning streak since September, hit by unimpressive earnings from both Amgen (Xetra: 867900 - news) and AT&T (NYSE: T - news) , as well as misses on key data.

The country's manufacturing sector dropped unexpectedly in April, while new home sales declined by 14.5% month-on-month.

However, the focus was very much on Apple and Facebook ahead of their quarterly results, both of which were due to be released after the 'closing bell' and both of which smashed forecasts.

Apple's share price surged in after-hours trading after the US tech giant beat forecasts with its quarterly results and added a further $30bn to its share buyback programme.

Social media giant Facebook also beat profit forecasts for its first quarter, as a surge in mobile advertising led to a jump in revenues.

Net (Dusseldorf: NETK.DU - news) income rose to $885m during the quarter, more than double the $312m reported the year before. Earnings per share totalled 34 cents, compared with the 24 cents expected by analysts, causing the share price to jump sharply after the closing bell on Wednesday evening.

In this morning's UK-listed company news, it was reported that revenues at AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - news) were given a boost in the first quarter by the company's diabetes franchise, although earnings took a hit.

The pharmaceuticals giant said that revenue totalled $6.42bn in the three months to March 31st, up 3% at constant exchange rates (CER). However, despite the top-line growth, core earnings per share declined by 11% at constant exchange rates (CER) to $1.17, mainly due to investment in the company's key growth platforms and rapidly progressing pipeline.

Pot Noodle-to-Dove Soap group Unilever (NYSE: UL - news) signalled an upturn in Europe in its first quarter but said growth was slowing in emerging markets as it reported a 6.3% fall in turnover to 11.4bn euros due to currency headwinds.

Travis Perkins (LSE: TPK.L - news) said all of its businesses recorded strong sales growth in the first quarter of 2014 and it remains on course to meet targets it set out in February. Britain's biggest supplier of building materials said like-for-like (LFL) sales grew 12.7% while total sales increased 15.6%, as overall trading stayed consistent with expectations at the start of the year.

Thanks to a new investment law brought in by the Egyptian government, gold miner Centamin (Toronto: CEE.TO - news) will try and dismiss an ongoing court case over rights to its Sukari mine in the country. The new law came into effect in Egypt on Wednesday and the FTSE 250 company's legal advisers have interpreted it as restricting "the capacity for third parties to challenge any contractual agreement between the Egyptian government and an investor".


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