FTSE holds on to gains on strong earnings and accommodating Fed

Writer, Stock Market Wire
Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 12:05

Signs the US Federal Reserve may take the foot off the pedal on rate rises plus some positive earnings reports helped the FTSE 100 hold on to gains by midday, up 0.6% to 6,984.25.

Elsewhere US futures only pointed to a modestly higher open when trading resumes on Wall Street this afternoon.

Royal Dutch Shell added 3.9% to £23.75 as it posted a 36% increase in full-year profits for 2018 to $21.4bn on Thursday and launched the next tranche of its share buyback programme.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Diageo climbed 4.4% to £28.94 after it said Thursday first-half operating profit saw double-digit percentage growth as higher sales of its premium brands offset the impact of rising costs and a stronger pound. The company also launched a £660m share buyback programme.

But Unilever slipped 3.1% to £39.42 after it reported a 2.9% increase in underlying sales for 2018 and the fourth quarter, but said it expected market conditions to remain "challenging" in 2019.

BT Group also fell, reversed losses to trade 1.2% higher at 236.7p as it maintained its guidance after reporting a 20% rise in pre-tax profits. However, revenues were held back by regulated price reductions in Openreach and declines in its enterprise businesses.

Dairy Crest added 0.8% to 480p on Thursday as it maintained its outlook for the full year as sales grew 6% in the third quarter on "strong" performance from its key brands and product launches.

British engineering company Renishaw rose 5.1% to £45.86 after it posted a fall in first-half profit attributable to shareholders to £52.0m, from £56.9m a year earlier, but said it remained confident in its future prospects.

Gambling company Rank climbed 5.6% to 158p despite reporting a 27.6% fall in its adjusted pre-tax profit to £29.1m for the first half of its financial year amid 'tough trading'.

British defence technology company Qinetiq moved 3.8% higher to 305.2p after it said on Thursday it had continued to perform well in the third quarter of its financial year and was "maintaining expectations" for the company's full-year performance.