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LONDON MARKET CLOSE: Biden tariff talks lift stocks into the green

Stocks in London were a sea of green at the close on Monday as mood lifted following the news that US President Joe Biden was considering lifting some Trump-administration trade tariffs imposed on China.

Tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports are due to expire in July, and Biden has faced growing calls to get rid of the punitive duties to help combat the highest US inflation in more than four decades.

Biden's comments Monday during a visit to Tokyo come after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week said some of the duties imposed by former president Donald Trump ‘seem to impose more harm on consumers and businesses’ and do little to address real issues posed by the Asian giant.

The president also said a recession in the US was not inevitable but acknowledged the economic pain felt by American consumers, saying ‘this is going to take some time’.

Ending the tariffs could help cut roaring US inflation by making imports cheaper.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 123.46 points, or 1.7%, at 7,513.44. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index closed up 310.23 points, or 1.6%, at 20,146.18. The AIM All-Share index closed up 7.21 points, or 0.8%, at 963.85.

The Cboe UK 100 index closed up 1.6% at 748.10. The Cboe 250 ended up 1.4% at 17,805.29 and the Cboe Small Companies finished marginally lower at 14,664.46.

In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 stock index in Paris closed up 1.2%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended up 1.4%.

In the FTSE 100, Kingfisher closed up 2.2% after the DIY retailer said first-quarter sales were above pre-pandemic levels but had weakened year-on-year.

The owner of the B&Q and Castorama DIY stores also unveiled a £300 million share buyback.

Kingfisher said group sales in the three months to April 30 fell 5.8% year-on-year to £3.25 billion. At constant currency, sales were down 4.2%. On a like-for-like basis, they were 5.4% lower.

Sales were 16% higher on a like-for-like basis compared to three years earlier, before the onset of the pandemic.

Kingfisher said it is managing inflationary pressures well and stock availability is approaching pre-virus levels. It backed its annual financial guidance.

DIY retail chain Wickes rose 4.7% in a positive read-across, while Irish peer Grafton was 4.1% higher.

At the other end of the large-caps, Intertek ended the worst performer, down 3.9%, after Stifel downgraded the testing specialist to 'hold' from 'buy'.

In the FTSE 250, Kainos ended the best performer, up 18%, after the software firm reported strong annual results.

Kainos said revenue in the year that ended March 31 climbed 29% to £302.6 million from £234.7 million. The figure topped a £297 million forecast from Shore Capital Markets.

Bookings were up 35% to £349.8 million from £258.8 million. Product annual recurring revenue jumped 45% to £34.3 million from £23.6 million. Its contracted backlog ended the period at £259.7 million, rising from £206.2 million at the same point the year prior.

Moonpig rose 10% after the online greeting card retailer unveiled the £124 million acquisition of Smartbox, which trades as Buyagift. The new acquisition is a provider of physical and experiential gifts.

It is a ‘step-change’ from Moonpig's current proposition, the personalised greeting cards firm said. The UK gift experiences market is worth £6 billion, Moonpig said.

The pound was quoted at $1.2575 at the London equities close, up from $1.2463 at the close Friday. Sterling was staging a recovery from the month low of $1.2163 reached on May 13.

FXPro analyst Alex Kuptsikevich explained: ‘We see a smooth recovery in the Pound from those lows, which is also in line with some easing of risk pull in global markets. The strengthening of GBPUSD on Monday looks like a signal that the recovery in risk demand has moved from a corrective bounce after oversold levels but is getting on a more serious track, bringing the pair back to the levels of the beginning of the month.

‘The currency market often acts as a leading indicator of a reversal of established trends, and we are likely to see one such signal from the British currency.’

The euro stood at $1.0690 at the European equities close, up sharply from $1.0547 late Friday, following well-received comments from European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde.

The common currency for the euro area was benefiting after Lagarde said the bank will probably draw a line under the era of negative interest rates by September.

The ECB is ‘likely to be in a position to exit negative interest rates by the end of the third quarter’, Lagarde wrote in a blog post. First, the end of the bank's bond-buying stimulus programme ‘very early in the third quarter’ would pave the way for a ‘rate lift-off at our meeting in July’, she said.

The initial hike would be the ECB's first in over a decade and would lift rates from their current historically low levels. These include a minus 0.5% deposit rate which effectively charges banks to park their excess cash at the ECB overnight.

‘The sense of urgency at the ECB to hike interest rates has however increased. We now expect a first 25bp rate hike in July and another in September. Although the risks are skewed toward a further rise in December, we have not pencilled in any rate hikes in the months beyond September. This is because we remain of the view that the window for rate hikes will close around the turn of the year,’ said analysts at ABN AMRO.

Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JP¥127.78, down from JP¥127.86 late Friday.

Stocks in New York were higher at the London equities close following the relentless sell-off seen for a majority of the previous week.

The DJIA was up 1.8%, the S&P 500 index up 1.1% and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.4%.

On Wall Street, VMware jumped 18% following a report from Bloomberg that the cloud computing company was in talks to be acquired by semiconductor maker Broadcom. Shares in Broadcom were off 4.7%.

Brent oil was quoted at $112.23 a barrel at the equities close, slightly lower from $112.40 at the close Friday.

Gold stood at $1,854.61 an ounce at the London equities close, higher against $1,846.32 late Friday.

The economic events calendar on Tuesday has PMI readings from the eurozone at 0900 BST, the UK at 0930 BST and the US at 1445 BST.

The UK corporate calendar on Tuesday has annual results from pork products producer Cranswick and home emergency cover provider Homeserve. London West End landlord Shaftesbury, travel concessions operator SSP Group and convenience foods maker Greencore post interim results.

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