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11 Feb 2021 | 16:00

London close: Stocks slightly higher as US jobless claims fall less than expected

(Sharecast News) - London stocks closed just above the waterline on Thursday, as investors spent the afternoon digesting fresh employment data out of the United States. The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.07% at 6,528.72, and the FTSE 250 was 0.1% firmer at 21,017.85.

Sterling was in the red at the end of the trading day, last falling 0.14% on the dollar to $1.3815, and weakening 0.19% against the euro to €1.1393.

"Volatility is low today as there has been little in the way of new news to trigger excitement," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

"Yesterday, Jerome Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve, repeated the bank's determination to support the economy.

"The Fed won't even think about removing the stimulus package until the pandemic is well and truly behinds us."

Madden noted that there had been chatter than inflation could undergo a jump due to the "extremely loose" monetary policy of central banks and the aggressive stimulus plans of governments, but a modest increase in US inflation would not faze the Fed.

"Equities are also being supported by the belief the US government will sign off on the proposed $1.9trn stimulus package within a month."

Fresh data stateside earlier in the afternoon showed that US jobless claims fell by less than expected last week, with the Department of Labor reporting that the number of initial unemployment claims fell by 19,000 to 793,000.

Economists had penciled in a reading of 765,000.

The preliminary estimate for the week before, meanwhile, was revised upwards by 33,000 to 812,000, and the four-week moving average of claims dropped by 33,500 to 823,000.

Secondary unemployment claims - those which are not being filed for the first time - fell by 145,000 to 4.5 million.

On the corporate front, pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca reversed earlier gains to close down 0.01% after it posted a spike in final revenues, fuelled by strong demand for its oncology drugs, and predicted further strong growth for the current year.

SSP shares slumped 11.67% after the Upper Crust and Ritazza owner said it was considering debt and equity funding options following a report about a possible £500m equity raise.

On the upside, Relx - formerly Reed Elsevier - rallied 1.93% after well-received full-year results, along with Coca-Cola HBC, which was ahead 4.65%

Product testing and certification company Intertek was boosted 3.65% by an upgrade to 'overweight' at Morgan Stanley.

Ladbrokes owner Entain was 1.67% firmer after it extended the acceptance deadline for its acquisition of Enlabs, standing firm on its offer despite some recoil from Enlabs shareholders.

Royal Mail advanced 4.91% after saying it expects full-year group adjusted profit to be "well in excess" of £500m after a strong rise in parcel revenues in the Christmas period.

Polypipe rocketed 10.89% after the piping manufacturer said it raised around £96.3m in a placing to help fund the £210m acquisition of magnetic filters maker ADEY.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,528.72 0.07% FTSE 250 (MCX) 21,017.85 0.10% techMARK (TASX) 4,120.69 0.04%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,365.00p 4.65% Intertek Group (ITRK) 5,774.00p 3.65% Avast (AVST) 507.00p 3.22% Smith (DS) (SMDS) 381.70p 3.08% Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,772.50p 3.02% Relx plc (REL) 1,825.00p 2.93% Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 2,600.00p 2.75% Halma (HLMA) 2,523.00p 2.35% Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,951.00p 2.07% Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,851.00p 1.99%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,332.00p -2.29% Land Securities Group (LAND) 610.60p -2.15% Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,278.60p -2.10% Anglo American (AAL) 2,663.50p -1.82% NATWEST GROUP PLC ORD 100P (NWG) 172.20p -1.71% GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,255.20p -1.55% British Land Company (BLND) 461.80p -1.35% Evraz (EVR) 507.80p -1.17% Barclays (BARC) 145.96p -1.16% Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 37.07p -1.15%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Polypipe Group (PLP) 570.00p 10.89% Spirent Communications (SPT) 260.50p 6.11% Royal Mail (RMG) 450.80p 4.91% St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 396.50p 4.07% Energean (ENOG) 893.00p 3.63% Hays (HAS) 155.60p 3.25% AJ Bell (AJB) 458.00p 3.15% Games Workshop Group (GAW) 10,500.00p 3.04% RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 4,016.00p 3.03% Capita (CPI) 39.18p 2.83%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

SSP Group (SSPG) 280.00p -11.67% Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 334.00p -5.75% National Express Group (NEX) 279.20p -5.55% Hammerson (HMSO) 21.65p -5.46% TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 1,198.00p -4.17% WH Smith (SMWH) 1,578.00p -3.55% Cineworld Group (CINE) 73.68p -3.31% Meggitt (MGGT) 411.20p -2.72% 3i Infrastructure (3IN) 286.00p -2.72% Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 1,211.00p -2.64%
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