Confidence seeps back into European indices on positive corporate results
Glanbia performs strongly on Iseq while Kingspan falls 0.5% ahead of trading update
London: Marks & Spencer shares slumped 4.7p to 353.7p on the Footsie amid news the retail giant is planning to close six stores following a review of its store estate. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
European shares edged higher on Thursday as investors welcomed results from Man Group and Pandora maintained its outlook, while French equities outperformed ahead of the first round of France’s presidential election.
The FTSE crawled back into the black after the resurgent pound dragged on blue-chip stocks in previous sessions following the announcement of a snap general election in the UK.
US stocks were also higher in early afternoon trading on Thursday, with gains in American Express keeping the Dow Jones Industrial Average largely on track to snap a two-day losing streak.
The Iseq finished 0.25 per cent ahead by the close of trading.
Dairy and nutrition products group Glanbia performed strongly throughout the day. It opened up more than 2 per cent and was as high as 3.3 per cent ahead during the afternoon. It fell back slightly, but still finished the session 1.6 per cent ahead.
Insulation group Kingspan fell 0.5 per cent ahead of its trading update next week. Analysts speculated that growth rates might come under pressure due to rising input costs.
Travel software company Datalex was among the poorer performers, finishing down 3.6 per cent, as some investors were said to fear the stock may be overvalued.
Sky shares inched higher by 2p to 984p despite reporting an 11 per cent drop in operating profit to £1.01 billion in the nine months to March 31st, weighed down by a “weaker UK advertising market” and a £494 million bill linked to Premier League costs.
Unilever rose 12.5p to 3,950p after reporting a 6.1 per cent jump in first quarter revenues to €13.3 billion. That accounted for currency fluctuations, which provided a 2.4 per cent boost.
Marks & Spencer shares slumped 4.7p to 353.7p amid news that the retail giant is planning to close six stores following a review of its store estate. It said the proposal, which is part of a five-year programme, is aimed at better meeting the “changing needs of customers”.
Away from the top tier, shares in Go Ahead Group – which runs Southern Railway through its Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) businesses – jumped 53p to 1,782p despite reporting a 5 per cent drop in passenger revenue on the service in the nine months to April 1st.
Debenhams tumbled 2.8p to 52.5p after the new chief executive, Sergio Bucher, unveiled plans to close 11 warehouses and put up to 10 stores under review, as part of a major overhaul.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended the session 0.2 per cent higher. France’s CAC 40 outperformed peers, jumping 1.5 per cent and marking its best day since the beginning of March.
Banking stocks, which are regarded as bellwethers for the economy, led the CAC 40 higher, with BNP Paribas and Societe Generale up 4 and 2.8 per cent respectively. Some analysts suggested that investors were closing out short positions ahead of the French presidential vote.
Earnings-related newsflow drove the top gainers, with Pandora up 5 per cent, regaining ground after a broker downgrade hit it earlier in the week. The company updated its financial reporting structure, confirming its 2017 outlook.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the industrials index’s 1.2 per cent rise leading the advancers, helped by gains in CSX Corp. The stock jumped 6.7 per cent to $50.11 after the No 3 US railroad operator’s quarterly profit beat estimates. The stock was among the biggest boosts to the S&P.
Philip Morris fell 3.8 per cent to $109.53 after the tobacco maker’s first-quarter profit forecast fell below estimates.
American Express was up 5.5 per cent after reporting a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly profit on Wednesday.
Apple rose 1.5 per cent after Morgan Stanley and Stifel raised their price targets on the stock, helping lift both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.
(Additional reporting: PA/Reuters/Bloomberg)