hile Europe sits around break even, UK markets have taken a turn for the worse this morning after more news from China and a number of disappointing updates weighed on the benchmark. On face value China re-affirming a 7.5% growth target should be good news on recent form, but analysts have cast doubt over whether that is achievable given leadership goals of curbing credit and pollution concerns, and it looks like the much debated economic reform is trying to tick a few too many boxes. The lack of clarity has weighed on basic resources which is one of the worst performing sectors in early trade, with Rio Tinto down over 2.5%.
Admiral went straight to the top of the class today after announcing a 7% hike in 2013 profits to £370m that CEO Henry Engelhardt referred to as “the year of the baked potato”, a comfort food set of results that doesn’t grab the spotlights. Well on a day that had very few spotlights elsewhere, the stock has grabbed it with ease, pushing up near 6%. Clearly investors are more than content with tucking into a baked potato on a cold March morning.
Legal and General stock eased back this morning despite reporting a 10% hike in profit before tax and a 22% increase in full year dividend. CEO Nigel Wilson noted the strong performance for the year but added in an element of caution for the year ahead, warning that there is “an inherent uncertainty” as QE is withdrawn, pointing towards emerging markets especially. That combined with a rampant February which seemed to price in today’s numbers sees the stock offered 2% lower.
Another stock painting a grim picture for 2014 was Melrose, who have cautioned that challenging market conditions will make 2014 growth hard to achieve. The firm will still pay a 5p final dividend, but noted that FX rates are continuing to hamper any potential for growth and the stock has dropped over 8% on the negative outlook.
Two stock suffering from individual share sales were Playtech and Jupiter fund management. Playtech founder Teddy Sagi announced plans to sell 10% of his holding by the closing bell today, while private equity firm TA associates has sold a 10.6% stake in Jupiter according to a stockbroker filing today. Both sales would seem to be well timed with both names having made all time highs in the last few weeks. Jupiter was down 4.5% on the news, while Playtech shed 7%.
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