Updates from Standard Life, N Brown Group and Petrofac

US stocks are cheered on by Fed keeping interest rates low meanwhile Standard Life gets a new CEO

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savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100, Standard Life, N Brown Group, Petrofac
The FTSE 100 climbed a modest 27 points on Thursday, ending trading at 6,707.8. Miners were favourite overall with RandgoldResources and AngloAmerican up 2.7% and 2.6% respectively (to 4546p and 990.70p). Investors turned positive on JohnsonMatthey, up 2.4% to 3120p though they were less keen on 3iGroup, down 3% to 517p and SevernTrent, down 2.9% to 2058p following ex-dividend moves - no investor payouts for both.

Over in the US the Dow Jones leapt more than 180 points to 18,115.8 after the Fed indicated it needed more time - and improvement in the US economy - before rates would rise. The Nasdaq soared to an all-time high, 5,132.9, on the news.

A subdued end to the week: we commence with internet and catalogue playerN Brown Group which says Q1 revenues are up 2.5%, with like-for-like revenues rising 1.5%; product revenues climbed 4.3%. However Q1 financial services revenue are down 1.9%.

Gross margin and operating costs are in line with expectations though product gross margin has been hit year-on-year by an increased mix towards Home & Gift and "greater than expected participation of strategic price investment lines" says the company.

"This year," says boss Angela Spindler, "will be more significantly H2 weighted as the planned benefits of the changes made flow through, and we become more aligned with typical retail phasing."

Next, oil services operator Petrofac - it recently saw an Outperform rating from analysts Bernstein - says its Offshore Projects & Operations business unit has secured contract renewals for operations and maintenance work worth $400m.

The largest of these awards is for operations and maintenance teams for CNR International across North Sea assets - the three platforms in the Ninian complex Murchison and Tiffany - for the next five years.

"This large-scale renewal - of contracts that we have held in some cases for more than a decade - is testament," says MD Offshore Projects, Walter Thain, "to our record of sustained operations delivery on behalf of our customers right across the UKCS."

Lastly, insurerStandard Lifesays Keith Skeoch will replace David Nish as its CEO. The change at the top has been accelerated by Standard Life's acquisition of Ignis Asset Management and the disposal of its Canadian companies says the company.

"I am delighted," says Skeoch, "to have the opportunity to lead Standard Life. Standard Life has been both transformed and simplified in recent years. This has put the fundamentals in place to build a world class business with investment management at its heart, serving savers and investors."

Standard Life shares have ranged between 354p and 505p in the last year. At time of writing they were worth 472p. Currently it has a P/E ratio of just over 18.

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