Markets rises tentatively as traders wait for US Fed speech

Markets ticked up tentatively on Wednesday as traders wait to hear from US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell at the end of the week in anticipation of his views on the country’s economy.

The rises also included the FTSE 100 which closed up 24.34 points, or 0.3%, at 7,150.12 as the ongoing supply chain issues in the UK failed to dent sentiment.

The Jackson Hole address is a highlight in the calendar for economists, with many hoping it will give a steer on the direction of travel for the US, which will, in term, impact other global economies.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: “Hesitation prevails across stock markets this afternoon, with a stronger US durable goods order failing to provide much direction.

“In one sense, the rise in orders provides a positive narrative for the US economy, and hence for US stocks, but inevitably the data has been fed into pre-Jackson Hole movements, with some no doubt expecting the continued strength of the US economy to lead to a more hawkish view at this week’s vital symposium.

“But it is too easy in these quiet August days to ascribe a narrative to movements that are broadly about window-dressing and position-trimming, rather than any attempt to guess the tone and direction of Powell’s speech this week.”

The German Dax closed down 0.28% and the French Cac was up 0.18%.

The pound was flat against the dollar at 1.373 and dropped 0.1% against the euro at 1.167 as markets closed.

In company news, the owner of builders materials supplier Selco posted a surge in half-year profits, but warned over ongoing supply chain disruption and soaring prices.

Grafton, which also owns the Woodie’s DIY chain in Ireland, said it saw “significant pressure” on the supply chain in the six months to June 30, with shortages of core materials, such as cement, steel, timber and plastics.

Shareholder preferred to focus on the strong profits, with shares closing up 50p at 1,359p.

Sticking with the building sector, construction and engineering firm Costain said it is on track to meet expectations as it swung to a profit and grew revenue in the first half of the year.

Pre-tax profits hit £9.1 million in the six months to the end of June, up from a £92.3 million loss a year earlier, with revenues up 21% to £556.8 million.

Shares closed down 1.3p at 62p.

Elsewhere, Premier Foods announced 800 office-based staff can choose to work remotely, in the latest business to reveal plans for hybrid working.

Shares closed up 0.8p at 119.8p.

Media giant Relx bought Leeds-based software group TruNarrative and will merge the business with its LexisNexis Risk Solutions division in a deal thought to worth £130 million.

Shares in Relx closed down 13p at 2,165p.

And Britvic announced its 500ml bottles of Robinsons, Lipton’s Ice Tea and Drench would now be made from 100% recycled plastic.

Shares closed down 12.5p at 975.5p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Flutter up 490p at 14,435p; Standard Chartered up 13.9p at 461.9p; Weir up 49p at 1,694.5p; Ocado up 57p at 2,049p and Melrose up 4.3p at 171.65p.

The biggest fallers were Rolls-Royce down 1.8p at 116.48p; Severn Trent down 42p at 2,790p; Croda down 132p at 9,140p; United Utilities down 15p at 1,057p and National Grid down 13.1p at 950.5p.