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18 Mar 2021 | 11:04

London midday: Stocks a touch lower ahead of BoE announcement

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were trading a touch lower ahead of the Bank of England rate announcement, as investors mulled a dovish statement from the Federal Reserve. At 1145 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down 0.2% at 6,752.54, while sterling was steady against the dollar at 1.3963.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said: "A 33,000-plus close for the Dow Jones wasn't enough to inject life into UK markets on Thursday, as they await the latest update from the Bank of England.

"The Federal Reserve managed to walk a tricky monetary policy tightrope on Wednesday night. While outlining a new set of forecasts, including the expectation of a 6.5% rise in GDP this year compared to the initial 4.2% estimates, Jerome Powell stated that 'no one should be complacent' about the US recovery.

"Powell described any rise above the 2% target as 'transitory', and that such an increase would not meet the standard required for a shift in monetary policy. In other words, an increase in interest rates is still off the table until at least 2024, even if 4 members of the FOMC would seek a hike in 2022, and 7 in 2023."

The Bank of England's policy announcement is due at 1200 GMT. It is widely expected to leave rates on hold at 0.1% and the asset purchase scheme at £895bn.

In equity markets, M&G, CRH, Hikma and Segro were all weaker as their stock went ex-dividend.

Ocado slumped even as the online supermarket said it expects positive revenue growth in the second quarter after reporting a 40% rise in revenue for the 13 weeks to the end of February as more Britons had their groceries delivered during the current national lockdown.

National Grid lost ground after it agreed to buy Western Power Distribution from PPL Corp of the US for £7.8bn and to sell Narragansett Electric to PPL for $3.8bn (£2.7bn) to shift its business towards electricity.

National Express fell after saying it swung to a loss in 2020 as it took a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson was knocked lower by a downgrade to 'sell' from 'neutral' at UBS.

OSB shares slid after the bank revealed it might have to write off as much as £28.6m because of possible customer fraud. In a statement after the market closed on Wednesday OSB said it had become aware of possible fraudulent activity by a customer it funds secured against property lease receivables and underlying assets.

On the upside, Standard Life Aberdeen was among the top performers after an upgrade to 'buy' at Deutsche Bank.

888 Holdings rallied as the online gambling company lifted its dividend despite a sharp fall in annual pre-tax profits on the back of higher costs.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,752.54 -0.15% FTSE 250 (MCX) 21,566.59 0.04% techMARK (TASX) 4,210.76 0.12%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Informa (INF) 591.80p 2.92% Rightmove (RMV) 572.00p 2.91% Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,752.50p 2.58% Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 288.30p 2.13% Fresnillo (FRES) 961.20p 2.10% Evraz (EVR) 551.20p 2.04% DCC (CDI) (DCC) 6,072.00p 2.02% Rio Tinto (RIO) 5,556.00p 1.76% Aveva Group (AVV) 3,430.00p 1.54% Smurfit Kappa Group (CDI) (SKG) 3,384.00p 1.50%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

M&G (MNG) 205.00p -4.25% Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,009.00p -3.55% Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 124.10p -2.44% Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 11,240.00p -2.43% BT Group (BT.A) 149.05p -2.26% Intertek Group (ITRK) 5,492.00p -1.96% Compass Group (CPG) 1,512.00p -1.82% Ferguson (FERG) 8,722.00p -1.80% CRH (CDI) (CRH) 3,305.00p -1.61% International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 212.80p -1.57%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 100.35p 7.10% Tullow Oil (TLW) 59.10p 6.49% Ferrexpo (FXPO) 383.00p 6.33% 888 Holdings (888) 352.50p 5.70% Airtel Africa (AAF) 87.90p 4.64% Cineworld Group (CINE) 120.55p 4.33% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 2,084.00p 3.89% CMC Markets (CMCX) 446.50p 3.84% Micro Focus International (MCRO) 488.70p 3.49% IG Group Holdings (IGG) 876.50p 3.06%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 364.00p -4.91% Provident Financial (PFG) 179.80p -4.77% OSB Group (OSB) 440.60p -4.59% Spirent Communications (SPT) 230.50p -4.36% Helios Towers (HTWS) 151.20p -3.82% National Express Group (NEX) 303.80p -3.19% Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 1,352.00p -2.59% Greggs (GRG) 2,108.00p -2.59% Centrica (CNA) 54.20p -2.27% SSP Group (SSPG) 312.40p -1.88%
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