Despite being led higher by futures markets into the session, the FTSE
had a pretty hard landing on the opening bell, with stocks being sold across a number of sectors, including Centrica who dragged the Utilities sector to the bottom of the pile in the midst of increased scrutiny from politicians and campaigners, all culminating in a UBS downgrade to “sell” and a further bite out of their share price.
A miss from German ZEW business confidence numbers failed to provide any reprieve, and left the mainland in the red ahead of an afternoon light on data.
BHP Billiton was the other stand out story of the morning session, with continued cost cutting and production gains spurring a huge 31% surge in profits for the first half of 2013. The sector as a whole has scaled back the exuberant spending and spiralling debt piles of the mining boom to concentrate on investor returns, making good on previous promises by announcing a 3.5% increase in dividend and opening the door to a possible share buyback. On China, a more cautious tone indicated the firm is expecting further drops in iron ore consumption growth to put further pressure on price, although a big drop was rejected by its main rival Rio Tinto last week.
Intercontinental hotels have seen 2013 profits increase 10% as trading conditions in the U.S and Europe continue to improve, also noting that the world largest hotel group was increasingly confident of a strong 2014 on its current trajectory. Annual pre-tax profits of $600m was ahead of forecasts of $585m, and the firm also enjoyed improving numbers from China despite well documented concerns over growth from other industries.
Bank of Georgia enjoyed a strong open after posting record profits of GEL209.3m for 2013, 16.6% up YoY. Revenue’s also hit an all-time high, helped by an increase in non-interest income as well as a strong year for Aldagi, its insurance and healthcare division.
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