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02 Apr 2020 | 11:25

London midday: Stocks maintain gains as oil prices rally; US jobless claims eyed

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were still in the black by midday on Thursday, with BP and Shell pacing the gains amid firmer oil prices, as investors eyed the latest US jobs data. The FTSE 100 was up 0.6% at 5,484.69.

Oil prices rose after US President Donald Trump said he expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to reach a deal soon to end the price war. West Texas Intermediate was up 9.2% at $22.38 a barrel and Brent crude was 9.7% higher at $27.40.

IG analyst Chris Beauchamp said: "A surge in oil prices is the main event of the morning, as the beleaguered commodity stages a rally on hopes that some form of accord between Saudi Arabia and Russia might bring the ongoing supply battle to a close.

"But this is only half the problem - abundant supply has come at a time of anaemic demand, and cutting back even modestly on output still leaves the world awash with oil that it doesn't need, want or have space for. Only a sizeable rebound in demand, and soon, could help provide a more durable solution, and that is not likely to develop in the near future, with lockdowns being extended in Europe and no sign that the rate of infection in the US has yet stabilised."

Later in the day, all eyes will be on the release of the latest US initial jobless claims figures.

Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said: "The US jobless claims number last week was horrific and this week is expected to be even worse.

"While much of this may prove to be temporary, plenty won't and at the moment, it's impossible to know how many that will be. Markets gave the jobless data a free pass last week, will they do the same this time around if the number is once again much higher? We also have the jobs report tomorrow and expectations here look a little over-optimistic. It could be an interesting couple of days for markets."

In equity markets, Shell and BP were the standout gainers as oil prices advanced, while Premier Oil, Cairn Energy and Wood Group also rose.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals was boosted by an upgrade to 'overweight' at JPMorgan.

British Airways parent IAG was higher following a BBC report that BA is placing 36,000 staff on furlough after demand collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Segro advanced after warning on earnings but saying it will still pay a dividend for 2019, while self-storage company Safestore pushed higher after saying it will pay out its final dividend as its stores remain open despite the virus outbreak.

On the downside, shares of cruise operator Carnival sank after it raised $6.25bn (?5bn) to stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis but paid a high price for the funds.

British Gas owner Centrica fell as it cancelled its dividend and cut capex by ?200m to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Recruiter Hays slid after warning on profits, cancelling its dividend and announcing a ?200m equity raising. Fellow recruiter PageGroup suffered even heavier losses.

Fresh foods provider Bakkavor was under pressure after it withdrew its 2020 guidance and scrapped its final dividend due to the pandemic.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 5,484.69 0.55% FTSE 250 (MCX) 14,413.59 -0.92% techMARK (TASX) 3,192.11 -1.32%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,550.20p 9.08% Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,467.00p 8.47% BP (BP.) 359.55p 7.75% Legal & General Group (LGEN) 181.15p 5.60% Glencore (GLEN) 125.64p 5.44% Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,168.00p 5.34% M&G (MNG) 114.40p 4.95% British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,996.00p 4.88% Aviva (AV.) 252.50p 4.55% Evraz (EVR) 233.00p 3.01%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Carnival (CCL) 713.80p -8.37% Centrica (CNA) 34.31p -7.55% Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 193.80p -7.49% Ferguson (FERG) 4,480.00p -5.68% London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 6,732.00p -4.78% Sage Group (SGE) 549.80p -4.61% Meggitt (MGGT) 234.90p -4.36% Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 292.30p -4.16% Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 829.00p -4.16% Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,338.50p -4.02%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Premier Oil (PMO) 17.30p 9.98% Cairn Energy (CNE) 83.55p 9.14% Wood Group (John) (WG.) 161.70p 8.85% Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 58.18p 7.30% Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 900.00p 5.88% Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,264.00p 5.33% IWG (IWG) 173.60p 5.21% Investec (INVP) 146.55p 4.60% Law Debenture Corp. (LWDB) 460.50p 4.54% Energean Oil & Gas (ENOG) 596.00p 4.38%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 83.70p -15.11% Pagegroup (PAGE) 308.20p -14.15% Provident Financial (PFG) 165.70p -10.43% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 94.00p -10.39% Hays (HAS) 98.35p -10.10% National Express Group (NEX) 189.60p -7.06% Close Brothers Group (CBG) 977.50p -6.55% TP ICAP (TCAP) 288.40p -6.42% Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 114.20p -6.39% Rank Group (RNK) 122.80p -6.12%
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