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FTSE 100: This morning’s risers and fallers

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UK stocks rose on Thursday morning amid a flurry or corporate earnings and updates, as investors focused on central banks and an easing of tensions in Eastern Europe.

Barclays was among the best performers early on after unveiling a major restructuring programme which includes thousands of jobs cuts. BT and Barratt Developments were also in demand after their updates, while Standard Chartered, Sage, WM Morrison and Centrica fell.

The FTSE 100 was trading 0.5% higher at 6,827 in early trading; it has not closed above this level since late February.

Markets were tracking gains made on Wall Street on Wednesday evening after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the central bank will continue to stimulate the US economy with inflation and the labour market still far away from targets. Meanwhile, she said there were signs that a slowdown in the housing market is posing a fresh risk to the recovery.

Comments made yesterday by Russian President Vladimir Putin also helped sentiment after he signalled that he is open to discussing measures to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. He also said he has pulled Russian troops from the borders as he called on pro-Russian activists in Eastern Ukraine to postpone a planned referendum this weekend.

As for today’s session, attention will be on policy decisions from the Bank of England and European Central Bank (ECB) later this afternoon, though the latter will be more closely watched.

Chief Market Analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets UK said: “Expectations are pretty low for any sort of action [from the ECB] today despite continued calls for further easing from bodies such as the OECD, and while inflation pressures are on the low side it still isn’t immediately apparent what a rate cut would achieve, given that the only form of easing that might have an effect […] still remains a long way away at the moment, if it happens at all.”

Barclays impresses with new strategy

Barclays gained after unveiling plans to cut 14,000 jobs across the group as part of a strategy update aimed at creating a “leaner, stronger” bank. In what it described as a “bold simplification” of the group, Barclays said it would become a focused international bank, costing it a further £800m, in addition to the original £2.7bn announced in February 2013.

Domestic banking peers Lloyds and RBS were also higher.

However, emerging markets-focused bank Standard Chartered fell after saying that profits declined by a “high single-digit percentage” in the first quarter amid continuing weakness in local currencies.

Software firm Sage underwhelmed despite saying it remains confident of achieving targets for the full-year following a 5% increase in half-year revenue.

UK supermarket chain WM Morrison has held on to its full-year targets but blamed heightened competition across the industry for a slump in sales in its first quarter, causing shares to fall this morning.

Energy company Centrica, owner of British Gas in the UK and Direct Energy in the US, was also lower after cautioning of a reduced full-year outlook for earnings in 2014 due to challenging conditions on both sides of the Atlantic.

BT rose strongly after its new TV sport channels underpinned record fourth-quarter consumer revenues, helping the UK telecoms group to ring up higher annual profits.

House-builder Barratt Developments gained on the back of comments that it was already on the way to hitting targets next year and beyond as it reported strong second-half trading.

Fashion retailer SuperGroup saw shares plummet after reporting a steep slowdown in sales growth in the fourth quarter and saying that full-year profits would be at the lower end of expectations.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Barclays (BARC) 254.50p +4.60%
BT Group (BT.A) 386.90p +2.68%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 384.00p +2.05%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,720.50p +1.93%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 331.60p +1.87%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 401.40p +1.83%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,010.00p +1.81%
Prudential (PRU) 1,400.00p +1.63%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,585.00p +1.41%
Old Mutual (OML) 205.90p +1.38%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Sage Group (SGE) 407.80p -3.36%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 185.70p -2.67%
Centrica (CNA) 319.80p -2.14%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 847.50p -1.40%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 224.85p -0.84%
G4S (GFS) 248.10p -0.84%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,667.00p -0.77%
Capita (CPI) 1,093.00p -0.55%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,230.50p -0.51%
Fresnillo (FRES) 816.00p -0.49%

Source: ShareCast

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