Equity Traders Shrug Off UK Downgrade To Send Stocks Higher
Demand for risk assets was untempered this morning despite Moodys lowering their rating of UK government debt. The market had largely been anticipating the move – though many commentators were surprised by the timing with the Chancellor’s annual budget on the short term horizon. Whilst FX traders marked the pound lower in Asian trading, there has been an early bounce in Europe and the FTSE is making progress towards 6400 despite pulling back from early highs.
In the absence of any significant macro data in the early part of the week, corporate performance will fall back under the spotlight with a number of UK firms providing updates this morning.
Amongst the early risers are outsourcing and distribution specialists Bunzl, who impressed traders with a 5.8% jump in earnings – driven by acquisitions made during 2012. The results allowed the board to raise the dividend by 7% to 28.2p.
Financial Times owner Pearson trade markedly lower despite a significant increase in digital sales and a 1% bump in operating profits. The board’s comments regarding trading conditions in 2013 struck a cautionary note with investors, and an outright denial that the flagship FT publication is up for sale seems to have disappointed shareholders, with the stock over 4% lower.
Also struggling to keep pace this morning are Reckitt Benckiser after an unfavourable ruling from the FDA weighed on their 2013 outlook, sending investors for the exits. The stock is offered over 4% lower.
XP Power are also on the losers list after reporting a 17% drop in earnings as revenue falls in Europe and North America fed through into the bottom line. The order book remains weak heading into 2013, with no immediate signs of improving conditions.
Shareholders of insurance group Hiscox are in better spirits, with the firm overcoming a year of natural disasters to emerge relatively unscathed and announce impressive annual profits. Outgoing chairman Robert Hiscox was able to sign off with the announcement of a special dividend which was warmly received by the market, sending the stock higher.
Exit polls from the Italian election will begin to trickle in this afternoon and will likely be the market’s key talking point with equity bulls keen to avoid a return to Bunga-Bunga politics in 2013…
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