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FTSE up but US subdued ahead of Trump speech

28 February 2017 16:45

The blue-chip index gained positive momentum as it was pushed higher by pharma giants Hikma (HIK) and AstraZeneca (AZN), as well as Natwest owner Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil fell by at least 1% to $53.32 and $55.37 per barrel, respectively.

Gold was stable at $1,256 per ounce and copper climbed 0.7% to $5,974 per tonne.


On Wall Street, US president Donald Trump prepared to deliver an address to Congress later which will outline key spending priorities.

Investors held fire ahead of the speech as US stocks opened flat on Tuesday.

Asian stocks were also subdued overnight as traders waited for Trump's anticipated speech.

Among his proposals is a $54bn increase in military expenditure, which boosted munitions supplier BAE Systems (BA.).


Engineer Babcock International's (BAB) trading update suggested it is set to deliver the stronger second half it promised ahead of its financial year end in March.

Wealth manager St James's Place (STJ) failed to rally despite a solid set of full year results as this is overshadowed by the departure of long-serving chief executive David Bellamy. After 11 years, Bellamy announced he is stepping down and will be replaced by finance director Andrew Croft.

Shares in property investor British Land (BLND) nudged higher on confirmed press speculation it is in advanced talks over the sale of its 50% stake in The Leadenhall Building, also known as 'the Cheesegrater'.

Pharma giant AstraZeneca (AZN) announced the US Food and Drug Administration's approval of Type-2 diabetes treatment drug Qtern.


Operator of the troubled Southern franchise Go-Ahead (GOG) slumped by nearly 15% to £19.44 as it warned on full year profits. The company blamed 'challenges' in its Govia Thameslink Railway franchise and a slowdown in passenger numbers in its regional bus service.

Sausage roll seller Greggs (GRG) reported the UK consumer outlook was more challenging as a result of pressures in commodities and labour costs. Management said it will have a modest impact on margins in the short-term.

Price comparison site (MONY) warned group revenue was currently behind 2016 levels in the first two months of the year. Investors were unconvinced that management can still deliver on expectations.

Challenger bank Virgin Money (VM.) posted a 33% advance in underlying pre-tax profit for 2016 to £213.3m and a 15% increase in its customer base.


The bad news hasn't stopped coming from support services group Interserve (IRV) as the company suspended its full year dividend. The market was not surprised as the stock failed to move significantly in either direction.

Iron ore supplier Strategic Minerals (SML) announced it discovered significant cobalt mineralisation at its Hanns Camp project in Western Australia, sparking a share price rise of 11.7%.

The market was not impressed by diagnostic devices firm Sphere Medical (SPHR) despite it meeting milestones for its Proxima 4 device and reducing its loss after tax.

Gaming group Webis (WEB) cautioned that its racing operations under Cal Expo continued to be below expectations thanks to bad weather, which reduced attendance and increased costs.

Management said it is focused on returning to profitability by the end of May, but this failed to reassure investors as the stock fell by 28.3%.

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