FTSE 100 closes higher as big hitters come out to bat

The FTSE 100 ended the week on a positive note, helped by strong gains from big hitters WPP and London Stock Exchange Group.

London’s premier index closed up 32 points, or 0.45%, at 7,103.73 as it was also boosted by better than expected economic data from China.

“A mixture of corporate results, a dip in sterling and a recovery rally in the resources sector helped the FTSE 100 to a decent start on Friday after a tricky week for the index.

“Sentiment was helped by better than expected Chinese manufacturing figures with a solid increase in new orders,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

In stocks, advertising giant WPP led the FTSE 100 higher, gaining 40.4p to close at 866.2p.

It came despite the firm reporting a hefty drop in annual profit and warning that challenging conditions will persist into the first half of 2019.

The group posted a 30.6% decline in full-year pre-tax profit to £1.46 billion for 2018, while revenue fell 1.3% to £15.6 billion. Like-for-like sales dipped 0.4%.

WPP blamed the impact of restructuring and transformation costs, as well as a goodwill impairment, but investors took solace in the company’s longer term prospects.

Also riding high was London Stock Exchange Group itself.

The exchange operator booked a 14% rise in operating profit to £751 million in 2018, while revenue jumped 8% to £1.9 billion.

But David Schwimmer, who became chief executive in August following the controversial departure of former boss Xavier Rolet, used his first annual results to tell investors that LSE does not expect to meet earnings targets.

Investors looked through the news to pump shares 188p higher to 4,695p at the close.

On the FTSE 250, Superdry shares were trading higher after founder Julian Dunkerton officially demanded a shareholder meeting as part of his efforts to stage a comeback at the fashion chain.

The requisition for a general meeting also calls for Peter Williams, who chairs fashion chain Boohoo, to be made a director.

Superdry’s current management, led by chief executive Euan Sutherland, have been involved in a months long dispute with Mr Dunkerton, who has slammed their strategy as “misguided”.

Shares in the fashion chain ended up 14.5p at 532.5p.

The pound, meanwhile, was trading 0.3% lower versus the US dollar at 1.322 at the London market close. Against the euro, sterling was down 0.4% at 1.162.

The British currency slipped on data showing that manufacturing output in the UK hit a four-month low in February, while stockpiling in the industry hit another record high.

The Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed a reading of 52.0 last month, lower than a revised reading of 52.6 in January.

The reading matched economists’ expectations, with a figure above 50 indicating growth.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.8% and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.6%.

A barrel of Brent crude was changing hands at 65 US dollars, a fall of 1.7%.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were WPP up 40.4p at 866.2p, London Stock Exchange up 188p at 4,695p, ITV up 5.05p at 136.15p and BAT up 104.5p at 2,863p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Relx down 118.5p at 1,610.5p, Rolls Royce down 50p at 905p, Fresnillo down 36p at 824p and Rightmove down 10.2p at 471.9p.

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