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11 Mar 2021 | 08:05

London open: Stocks nudge higher on US stimulus, ahead of ECB

(Sharecast News) - London stocks nudged higher in early trade on Thursday as investors welcomed news that Congress had backed a $1.9trn US stimulus package, and looked ahead to the latest policy announcement form the European Central Bank. At 0840 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2% at 6,737.83.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said: "Despite a record close for the Dow Jones, and the passing of the American Rescue Plan, the prospect of Thursday's ECB meeting led to a quiet start for Europe.

"The FTSE could really do with picking up the pace. While its miners - the index's biggest burden this week - rebounded after the bell, the FTSE itself only managed a 0.1% increase, leaving it short of 6,750.

"That's not even a month high for the UK index. In comparison, the DAX is in all-time high territory, while the CAC was the one major index to significantly move, climbing past 6,000 for the first time in over a year.

"While the markets survived Wednesday's inflation obstacle, there is still pressure on Christine Lagarde's ECB to reassure investors over the issue. That, as well as investors' concerns surrounding the sluggish vaccine rollout in the bloc and the smatterings of fresh covid-19 outbreaks across the region."

In equity markets, miners were on the front following heavy losses in the previous session, as commodity prices rose.

Rolls-Royce advanced after the engine maker said it expected to turn cash flow positive in the second half of 2021 as it reported a £4bn annual loss inflicted by the pandemic. The company swung to a £4bn underlying pre-tax loss in the year to the end of December from a £583m profit a year earlier as underlying revenue fell to £11.8bn from £15.5bn.

Spirent Communications gained after it reported a rise in full-year profit and declared a special dividend despite "a challenging environment" due to the pandemic.

IG Group rallied as the online trading platform said third-quarter revenues surged 65% thanks to "exceptional" levels of trading activity throughout the quarter.

Landscape products company Marshalls pushed higher as it posted a decline in full-year profit and revenue as it took a hit from the Covid crisis, but lifted its expectations for 2021 following a strong start to trading.

On the downside, Persimmon, HSBC, Evraz and Assura all lost ground as their stock went ex-dividend. HSBC was also knocked lower by a downgrade to 'sell' at Investec.

Elsewhere, Aviva and IWG were both lower after downgrades to 'hold' at Jefferies and Berenberg, respectively.

Morrisons edged down after the supermarket chain saw annual profits halved as it was impacted by extra Covid costs, but also declared a special dividend alongside a final payout.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,737.83 0.18% FTSE 250 (MCX) 21,519.40 0.53% techMARK (TASX) 4,123.15 0.63%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Entain (ENT) 1,488.50p 2.62% Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,129.00p 2.36% Anglo American (AAL) 2,923.50p 2.33% Rio Tinto (RIO) 5,774.00p 2.21% Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 115.45p 2.17% Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) 15,310.00p 2.13% Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 1,157.00p 2.12% Rightmove (RMV) 582.80p 2.10% Halma (HLMA) 2,329.00p 2.06% Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,940.00p 1.94%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Persimmon (PSN) 2,960.00p -4.67% HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 429.20p -3.79% Evraz (EVR) 563.80p -2.89% Prudential (PRU) 1,497.50p -1.25% AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,106.00p -1.20% Aviva (AV.) 389.50p -1.14% Standard Chartered (STAN) 488.50p -1.11% NATWEST GROUP PLC ORD 100P (NWG) 185.90p -1.04% Barclays (BARC) 172.34p -0.95% Tesco (TSCO) 220.60p -0.72%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Marshalls (MSLH) 741.50p 6.23% Spirent Communications (SPT) 250.50p 5.47% IG Group Holdings (IGG) 844.00p 4.07% Ferrexpo (FXPO) 348.40p 3.32% Trainline (TRN) 495.60p 3.16% Games Workshop Group (GAW) 10,100.00p 3.06% Hochschild Mining (HOC) 211.20p 3.02% Energean (ENOG) 957.90p 2.90% AO World (AO.) 322.00p 2.88% Cairn Energy (CNE) 184.60p 2.61%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Helios Towers (HTWS) 154.80p -7.86% Playtech (PTEC) 490.00p -4.15% IWG (IWG) 350.20p -1.85% Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 216.00p -1.82% Syncona Limited NPV (SYNC) 255.50p -1.54% Group (MONY) 281.80p -1.26% Babcock International Group (BAB) 238.80p -1.24% BlackRock Smaller Companies Trust (BRSC) 1,752.00p -1.13% Assura (AGR) 72.10p -1.10% Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 165.50p -0.96%
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