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FTSE 100: This morning’s risers and fallers

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London's blue chips delivered decent gains on Tuesday morning as they followed in the steps of US stocks, which on Monday night were driven higher by comments made at the Jackson Hole symposium of central bankers last Friday.

The FTSE 100 had climbed 21.50 points higher to 4,439.50 in the first hour of trade.

Monday’s US session saw the S&P 500 at one point edge past the psychologically significant 2,000 point mark for the first time ever following what was seen by some as a somewhat hawkish speech from Janet Yellen.

Speaking to her audience, the Fed chair said that if unemployment continued to decrease more quickly than expected then the central bank might have to raise rates sooner than is currently priced into financial markets.

“While the focus was on a less dovish than expected speech from Janet Yellen, which helped to push the US dollar higher, it was the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi who stole the limelight and the headlines with a speech that appeared to hint at the prospect of some form of quantitative easing in the coming months,” Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said.

Draghi’s speech indicated he had concerns about expectations for inflation and said flexibility was needed in fiscal policy.

Meanwhile, Monday night also saw the televised debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling over Scottish independence.

In the 90-minute clash, held at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, the two campaign leaders argued a number of topics, including the pound, welfare reform, North Sea oil and the NHS.

Overall, First Minister Salmond was generally agreed to have won the debate.

UK service firms endure slowest growth in a year

The UK services industry slumped to its slowest growth in a year in the last three months, according to a survey out on Tuesday.

Business volumes in the three months to August rose at their weakest rate since the same month in August 2013, the latest Services Sector Survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed.

About 43% of firms said volumes were up compared with three months ago, and 17% said they were down, giving a balance of 25%.

Bunzl, WPP lead upside

Strong performances in emerging and Western markets have helped packaging and cleaning supplies group Bunzl to lift underlying half-year profits and its dividend, sending shares firmly higher early on. Bunzl said pre-tax profit in the six months to 30 June increased by 14% to £176.6m at constant exchange rates, although the rise was 5% at actual rates. Revenue also took a hit from currency volatility, rising 7% to £2.9bn at constant rates but falling 1% in actual terms.

Media and public relations conglomerate WPP was hot on its heels after it posted interim results slightly ahead of expectations, although it continued to take a hit from the strong pound. Pre-tax profit was £491m, up 15 per cent compared to £427m in the same period in 2013. Revenue came in at £5.469bn, up 2.7 per cent from £5.327bn a year earlier, while reported diluted earnings per share climbed 25.6 per cent from 21.5p to 27.0p year-on-year.

British Land has let a further 36,000 square foot (sq ft) at Wheatley Retail Park in Doncaster after Next and Marks & Spencer Simply Food agreed terms for two new units. Next is to upsize to a 23,518 sq ft with a full cover mezzanine floor, on a 15-year lease, whilst Marks & Spencer Simply Food will open its first store at the park, taking a 12,502 sq ft unit.

Bus and rail operator Stagecoach reported higher revenue across its businesses, particularly its UK bus networks, and said it was on track to hit annual targets despite facing “a number of challenges” in increasing profit. Stagecoach said its UK regional buses boosted revenue by 4 per cent in the 12 weeks to 20 July, although like-for-like passenger volumes rose by just 0.9 per cent.

Oil and gas explorer Petrofac saw revenues decline to $2.5bn over the six months ended on 30 June. Operating profits on an EBITDA basis were off by 16 per cent to $340m. Engineering, construction, operations and maintenance (ECOM) order intake stood at $7.2bn for the first half, raising the backlog 35 per cent to $20.3bn, “giving very good revenue visibility for the rest of the year”, the company said.

Meanwhile, from Tuesday, drug-maker Pfizer will be eligable to make one further private offer for Astrazeneca, prompting the latter’s share price to rise around 0.5% in the first hour of trade.

FTSE 100 – Risers
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 447.90p +2.47%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,867.00p +1.96%
WPP (WPP) 1,249.00p +1.79%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,658.00p +1.72%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,648.00p +1.57%
Royal Mail (RMG) 456.40p +1.47%
CRH (CRH) 1,399.00p +1.45%
Barclays (BARC) 225.55p +1.23%
Kingfisher (KGF) 308.20p +1.18%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,960.00p +1.18%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Antofagasta (ANTO) 789.00p -2.35%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,108.00p -1.60%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,360.50p -0.94%
ITV (ITV) 207.40p -0.81%
Prudential (PRU) 1,441.00p -0.52%
BP (BP.) 483.45p -0.34%
Shire Plc (SHP) 4,860.00p -0.27%
Meggitt (MGGT) 465.50p -0.26%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 949.50p -0.26%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 240.70p -0.21%

Source: ShareCast

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