Updates from Barclays, Taylor Wimpey and Stagecoach
While US markets topped record highs on Monday, things were a touch more subdued for the FTSE 100. The Big Board slipped six points to 6,940.6 with Tullow Oil bearing the most strain, sliding 7.7% to 357p, close to a 52-week low. Shell shares also took pressure, slipping 2% to 2159p. However RBS shares climbed 3% to 378p, though there is no sign of any investor dividend yet (in contrast to Lloyds).
As alluded to, the Dow Jones hit 18,288.6 yesterday while the Nasdaq jumped 44.5 points to 5,008 (the first time it had closed beyond the 5,000 mark since 2000). M&A activity plus lower Chinese interest rates all helped row investor enthusiasm along.
The big corporate news this morning is 2014 results from Barclays. Group adjusted profit before tax is up 12% to £5.5bn; core profit before tax is up but after all liabilities - PPI provision is upped £200m taking the total to £1.1bn for the full year - Barclays profits sink to £2.26bn, down more than 20%.
Overall, the Barclays headline profits figure appears slightly higher than some had forecast. Barclays boss Antony Jenkins confirms he will definitely take his £1.1m bonus this year. However the operation still faces more forex fines from regulators, including from the US.
"In terms of dividends," says Barclays, "we declared a cash dividend of 6.5p for 2014 despite the impact of provisions for conduct items. We have a growing confidence in the capital position of the Group and continue to target a 40-50% payout ratio."
We move onto full-year numbers from housebuilder Taylor Wimpey. 2014 revenues improve 17% to £2,686.1m while operating profit surges 53.6% to £480.7m. Adjusted basic earnings per share jumps almost 68% to 11.2p from 6.7p.
The housebuilder says a further £250 million or so (7.68 pence per share) will be returned in July 2015. It completed 12,454 homes, up 6.5%, with an 11.5% increase in total average selling price to £213k (2013: 11,696 homes at £191k).
"Whilst there remains uncertainty," says the company, "around the outcome of the General Election in May, consumer confidence remains solid and is supported by healthy underlying demand, low interest rates and high levels of employment. We therefore consider that the UK near term market risk is low."
Finally, a trading update from Stagecoach. Like-for-like revenue growth is up 2.7% for the 40 weeks up to 1 February by 2.7% for UK Bus but 9.8% for UK Bus London. UK Rail sees 7.6% growth, claims Stagecoach.
The company says the new InterCity East Coast rail franchise, together with partner, Virgin, is expected to "significantly enhance" the profitability of its UK Rail Division for the year ending 30 April 2016 and beyond.
"Although there are a number of previously reported challenges," it says, "to growing profit in the year ending 30 April 2015, overall current trading is satisfactory and we are on course to meet our expectations for the year."
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