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LONDON MARKET CLOSE: Oil majors, housebuilders keep FTSE 100 higher

Stocks in London were broadly higher at the close on Thursday, as a boost from oil majors more than compensated for several financial stocks going ex-dividend.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 26.10 points, or 0.4%, at 7,541.85. The FTSE 250 ended up 109.61 points, or 0.6%, at 20,136.65, but the AIM All-Share, however, closed down 2.11 points, or 0.3%, at 924.56..

The Cboe UK 100 closed up 0.3% at 753.40, the Cboe UK 250 closed up 0.4% at 17,421.11, and the Cboe Small Companies closed down 0.5% at 14,350.49.

In European equities on Thursday, both the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX 40 in Frankfurt closed up 0.5%.

Brent oil was quoted at $96.12 a barrel Thursday evening, up sharply from $93.38 late Wednesday. BP closed 2.6% higher, while peer Shell advanced 1.6%.

London's blue chips also got a boost from a rebound from the UK's housebuilders. A day after finishing at the bottom of the FTSE 100, Persimmon closed out Thursday as one of its best performers.

On Wednesday, Persimmon said its half-year earnings declined. The York-based company said revenue in the half-year to June 30 fell 8.3% to £1.69 billion from £1.84 billion a year ago. Completions during the half amounted to 6,652 new homes, down from 7,406 a year earlier, as expected.

Despite the fall in profit, the housebuilder remained optimistic: ‘While near term uncertainties continue the longer-term fundamentals remain strong,’ it said. It continues to target around 10% growth in active outlets by the end of 2022.

It added 2.2% on Thursday, regaining some of Wednesday's 7.8% loss. Rivals Barratt Developments, Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley followed suit, adding 1.6%, 1.8% and 0.8%, respectively.

Keeping a lid on the FTSE 100, abrdn, M&G, Aviva and HSBC gave back 2.5%, 2.3%, 4.2% and 0.8% after the stocks went ex-dividend.

In the midcaps, Marshalls ended the worst performer, losing 7.3%.

It hailed a ‘robust’ first half but is mindful of economic uncertainty, as it expects full year expectations to be in line with market forecasts.

For the six months that ended on June 30, the Elland, West Yorkshire-based landscaping products said revenue climbed 17% to £348.4 million from £298.1 million a year earlier, reflecting ‘two months contribution from Marley and growth of 7% on a like for like basis.’

The firm's pretax profit dropped 38% year-on-year to £23.9 million from £38.9 million, as net operating costs climbed 25% to £321.1 million from £257.1 million.

In London's junior market, Aeorema Communications jumped 12% as it now expects its full-year revenue and profit to exceed previous forecasts thanks to strong demand.

The live events agency said it expects to deliver a pretax profit of no less than £830,000 in the year ended June 30. This would swing the firm from a loss of £159,698 the previous year and exceed its previous expectations of a £700,000 profit.

Revenue is expected at £12.2 million, beating previous guidance of £11.8 million if achieved and up sharply from £5.1 million in the last financial year.

Chief Executive Steve Quah said there was ‘undoubtedly’ strong demand for the firm's event services.

Stocks in New York were mixed at the London equities close following the release of the latest meeting minutes from the US Federal Reserve. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1%, the S&P 500 index up 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.3%.

The Fed reaffirmed its commitment to cutting the high levels of inflation, but indicated it could rein in the pace of interest rate increases ‘at some point’.

The euro stood at $1.0132 late Thursday, down against $1.0155 late Wednesday after figures confirmed the annual eurozone inflation rate surged at a record pace of 8.9% in July, picking up steam from 8.6% in June.

The pound was quoted at $1.2000 Thursday evening, down compared to $1.2040 at the close on Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JP¥135.10, down compared to JP¥135.44 late Wednesday.

Gold was quoted at $1,761.70 an ounce, up against $1,753.55 at the close on Wednesday.

In the international economics calendar on Friday, there is Japan inflation figures overnight, followed by UK retail sales and German producer prices at 0800 BST then Swiss industrial production at 0830 BST.

The local corporate calendar has interim results from Irish building materials firm Kingspan and private equity funds investor Apax Global Alpha.

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