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London open: stocks fall ahead of ECB announcements

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UK stocks opened slightly lower on Thursday morning as caution set in ahead of a busy end to the week for financial markets worldwide.

Benchmarks across Europe were lower “as investors refused to commit to long positions amidst a series of economic announcements due today which could have a massive impact on investors’ sentiment”, according to Financial Trader Shavaz Dhalla from Spreadex.

On the agenda today will be the Monetary Policy Committee vote in the UK and German industrial production figures.

However, the focus is likely to be on the European Central Bank policy decision this afternoon with many expecting to see a reduction in interest rates in response to last week’s sharp fall in inflation across the euro area.

Over in the States, eyes will be kept on a barrage of US economic data, including the initial estimate of third-quarter gross domestic product growth, personal consumption figures and the initial jobless claims report.

Traders will also be looking ahead to the all-important non-farm payrolls numbers due out on Friday which are expected to show a sharp slowdown in employment growth in October.

Gold miner Randgold Resources was a high riser in London this morning after recording a 80% quarter-on-quarter profit increase in the third quarter after a strong performance by its flagship Loulo-Gounkoto complex in Mali. The bottom-line growth came despite a 3% drop in the average gold price over the period.

Food and sweetener company Tate & Lyle edged higher despite saying half-year profits slipped 6% after a soft beverage season in the US overshadowed growth in Speciality Food Ingredients and progress in emerging markets.

Heading the other way was fund manager Schroders as it underwhelmed with a sharp rise in third-quarter profits. The company did say that its wealth management division suffered a £0.7bn net outflow following the loss of a large custody account.

Coca-Cola HBC, the world’s second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola, also declined after a dip in revenues in the third quarter as volumes were hit by tough economic conditions in Europe. The company also warned that trading conditions would “remain difficult” for the rest of 2013.

Auto and bike parts retailer Halfords surged despite a 35% drop in its interim dividend as investors celebrated +6% improvements in like-for-like revenues and profits in the first half.

Satellite operator Inmarsat was lower after recording a small fall in revenues in the third quarter and saying that delayed launches will “apply some downward pressure on operating profits during the year 2014”.

Source: ShareCast