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FTSE 100: This morning’s risers and fallers

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A flurry of blue-chip company announcements and upcoming policy decisions by the Bank of England (BoE) and European Central Bank (ECB) kept investors cautious on Thursday morning, with UK stocks trading in the red early on.

The FTSE 100 was down 0.3 per cent at 6,517, having jumped 1.3 per cent to the previous session.

The BoE is widely expected to keep interest rates at the record-low level of 0.5 per cent when it announces its policy decision at midday. Recent economic data has generally indicated that UK economic growth may have cooled off in the fourth quarter.

“Hence, a rate hike in the UK does not appear to be just around the corner,” said analysts at Danske Bank. Markets will be awaiting next week’s Inflation Report from the BoE in which the central bank will provide new projections.

Meanwhile, the ECB is also predicted to keep policy unchanged though the afternoon press conference with president Mario Draghi will be very closely watched as usual, especially after the recent slowdown in growth and falling inflation expectations.

Given the increasing pressure on the ECB to ramp up monetary easing, investors expect Draghi to adopt a dovish tone and show his readiness to stimulate the single-currency region.

Some important economic data is also on tap for Thursday’s session, including UK industrial production figures and US jobless claims.

Labour-market data in the States will be particularly in focus ahead of the all-important non-farm payrolls report on Friday. Non-farm payrolls are expected to have increased by 232,000 in October, after a 248,000 gain in September, while the unemployment rate is forecast to have held steady at 5.9 per cent.

Morrisons jumps, M&S continues to rise

Supermarket chain Wm Morrison was a high riser early on after seeing its like-for-like sales decline ease to 6.3 per cent in the third quarter from 7.4 per cent in the first half, as it said its new Match & More loyalty card was proving “extremely popular” with customers. The group also narrowed its full-year guidance for underlying profit before tax to £335m-365m, from the previous £325m-375m.

Rival grocers J Sainsbury and Tesco were also higher.

Marks & Spencer was extending gains made on Wednesday after beating forecasts with an unexpected increase in profit in the first half. Deutsche Bank also gave the stock a lift on Thursday after upgrading its rating to ‘buy’ and lifting its target price for the shares.

First-half profits and cash flow from credit information group Experian hit the top end of expectations despite a decline in US consumer revenue due to rebranding. The stock was among the best performers on the FTSE 100.

Randgold Resources gained after saying it experienced a “robust” third-quarter performance and is confident of delivering a record year with quarterly gold output at all-time highs and costs being well contained.

RSA Insurance fell after saying its underwriting result in the third quarter quarter was weak overall and posted a 9 per cent fall in premiums.

There were a string of corporate announcements on the FTSE 250, with 3i Infrastructure, Spire Healthcare and Inmarsat on the rise after statements, and Cable & Wireless Communications, Halfords and UBM falling.

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