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Banks drive strong session for London markets

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Banking stocks helped the FTSE 100 to gains on Thursday (Victoria Jones.PA) (PA Archive)
Banking stocks helped the FTSE 100 to gains on Thursday (Victoria Jones.PA) (PA Archive)

London’s markets climbed higher again as they were boosted by a robust session for the banks and financial stocks.

Sentiment stayed strong after the Asian markets began the day brightly, with the Bank of Japan withstanding a global shift in tightening monetary policy.

The FTSE 100 ended the day up 83.85 points, or 1.13%, at 7,509.19 points as it was buoyed by a raft of strong earning updates.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Some decent earnings reports have given the FTSE 100 a welcome lift today, although the market reaction to some has been a little bit underwhelming, which is causing the rebound on the UK index to lag its European peers.

Banks are doing well helped by some solid numbers from Standard Chartered, while Barclays numbers have been a mixed bag.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the other main markets took their lead from Asia to finish with strong rises.

The French Cac was up 0.98% and the German Dax increased 1.35% by the end of the session.

Across the Atlantic, Wall Street stocks performed well but at the expense of a weak dollar which was shaken by an unexpected contraction in the US economy over the start of the year.

The US commerce department revealed that gross domestic product shrank by 1.4% during the first quarter of 2022, marking its first decline since the middle of 2020.

Meanwhile, sterling moved marginally higher after reaching its lowest level against the dollar for over a year.

The pound increased by 0.01% against the dollar to 1.244, and rose 0.15% against the euro to 1.184.

In company news, Sainsbury’s slumped despite the country’s second largest grocer reporting a surge in pre-tax profits to £854 million for the 12 months to March 5.

Shareholders were downbeat as they focused on the company’s forecast that underlying pre-tax profits will be lower next year as the retailer swallows some of the impact of soaring cost inflation.

Shares in Sainsbury’s finished 10.3p lower at 228.7p as a result.

Standard Chartered meanwhile leaped to the top of the FTSE after the banking firm saw profits smash analyst estimates for the first quarter despite volatility in its core Asian market.

The London-based lender said profits increased by 6% over the period as trading income improved amid its pandemic recovery. It closed up 67.9p at 547.6p.

Barclays also made gains as it posted profits above expectations and said it was not seeing signs that borrowers are getting into repayment troubles and expects arrears to remain lower than before the pandemic.

It therefore closed 4.38p higher at 146.3p despite its pre-tax profits coming in at £2.2 billion for the first three months of 2022, down from £2.4 billion a year ago.

The price of oil bounced back as it witnessed another Russian driven rise. Crude increased by 1.2% to 106.6 US dollars per barrel when the London markets closed.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 included Standard Chartered, up 67.9p at 547.6p, Aveva, up 130p at 2,054p, Whitbread, up 118p at 2,875p, Airtel Africa, up 5.9p at 149.1p, and Electrocomponents, up 39p at 1,041p.

The biggest fallers on the day were Sainsbury’s, down 10.3p at 228.7p, Fresnillo, down 28.8p at 765p, St James Place, down 36.5p at 1,278.5p, Ocado, down 18.4p at 911p, and Pershing Square, down 45p at 2,755p.

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