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FTSE 100 Live 3 April: Blue-chips rally to close flat as Eurozone inflation fall boosts rate cut hope

Better-than-expected Eurozone inflation figures helped London’s FTSE 100 index recover from a difficult start this morning.

The selling pressure came amid concerns that US interest rates may stay elevated for longer than Wall Street had earlier hoped for.

Topps Tiles and Hilton Foods are in today’s corporate spotlight, while Morgan Stanley has pledged to stay at Canary Wharf until 2038.

FTSE 100 Live Wednesday

  • Morgan Stanley to stay in Canary Wharf

  • Warning over shrinking stock market

  • Topps Tiles hit by house market slowdown

Co-Op headlines quiet day tomorrow

Wednesday 3 April 2024 17:21 , Daniel O'Boyle


Here’s what’s on the schedule for tomorrow, which is set to be another quiet day for corporate updates


Conagra Brands

The Co-op Group


March new car registrations (SMMT)

US initial jobless claims

ECB minutes of last interest rate meeting

End-of-day market snapshot

Wednesday 3 April 2024 16:53 , Daniel O'Boyle

FTSE finishes flat despite early fall

Wednesday 3 April 2024 16:36 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 closed today at 7,937.44, two points higher than where it started the day, after recovering from an early drop.

At one stage, the index was as low as 7885.

That leaves London’s top flight still within one strong day of a record close.

The biggest risers were Fresnillo - posting its second straight day of strong gains - and Barclays.

BT, RS Group and Prudential were the biggest fallers.

10 new prospective renters for each available property in February – report

Wednesday 3 April 2024 16:28 , Daniel O'Boyle

Around 10 new prospective rental sector tenants were registered for each available property in February, according to a property professionals’ body.

Although the average number of new applicants registered per agency branch decreased in February 2024, a reduction in stock levels has meant that demand continues to outstrip supply, Propertymark said.

Rental arrears remained fairly static in February 2024, the report said.

Read more here

Market snapshot as shares rally

Wednesday 3 April 2024 15:44 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at our latest market data with the FTSE 100 now close to flat after recovering from the mid-morning lows

Ministers under fire over ferry ‘chaos’ as CalMac boss removed from post

Wednesday 3 April 2024 15:21 , Daniel O'Boyle

Opposition parties say there is “chaos” in Scotland’s ferry services after the chief executive of CalMac was removed from the post amid ongoing challenges with its fleet.

The company, which is the UK’s largest ferry operator, announced on Wednesday that Robbie Drummond is leaving the role with immediate effect.

Scottish Government ministers had been told last week that the state-owned company’s board was reviewing its senior leadership.

Read more here

Google to delete user records gathered from browser private mode

Wednesday 3 April 2024 14:31 , Daniel O'Boyle

Google has agreed to delete billions of records containing personal information collected from millions of people through its Chrome web browser, as part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit in the United States

The lawsuit accuses Google of tracking Chrome users’ internet activity even when they had switched the browser to “Incognito” mode, a setting which is supposed to shield a user from being tracked.

The details of the deal emerged on Monday, more than three months after Google and its legal team disclosed they had resolved a lawsuit brought in June 2020 which focused on the privacy controls of the firm’s Chrome web browser.

Read more here

Wetherspoons plans new Waterloo Station pub

Wednesday 3 April 2024 14:04 , Daniel O'Boyle

Pubs giant JD Wetherspoon will open a new pub at London Waterloo Station.

The new pub, The Lion and the Unicorn, will employ 120 people between full- and part-time jobs. Wetherspoons will spend £2.5 million on its development.

It is set to open in the summer.

Investor appetite for IPOs improving in UK after ‘muted’ year, Peel Hunt says

Wednesday 3 April 2024 13:37 , Daniel O'Boyle

Investment bank Peel Hunt has said sentiment towards company listings has started to improve in the UK after a quiet year, but that it still expects to report an annual loss.

The company reported a “resilient” financial performance in challenging market conditions.

Revenues for the year to the end of March are expected to hit about £85.5 million, 4% higher than the previous year.

Read more here

Royal Mail warns of possible job cuts under plans to cut second-class service

Wednesday 3 April 2024 13:26 , Daniel O'Boyle

Royal Mail has warned up to 1,000 jobs could be axed under plans put forward to the industry watchdog to scrap second-class letter deliveries on Saturdays and cut the service to every other week day.

In its submission to Ofcom’s consultation on the future of the universal postal service, Royal Mail said its proposals would see all non first-class letter deliveries – including second class and bulk business mail – reduced to save it up to £300 million a year.

But it would keep a six-day-a-week service for first-class mail in a climbdown on previous calls for all Saturday letter deliveries to be scrapped.

Read more here

Lunchtime market snapshot

Wednesday 3 April 2024 13:12 , Daniel O'Boyle

Take a look at our latest market data

Network Rail ramps up spending on protecting railway from climate change

Wednesday 3 April 2024 12:55 , Daniel O'Boyle

Network Rail has announced it is ramping up spending on protecting the railway from climate change and extreme weather.

The Government-owned company, responsible for Britain’s railway infrastructure, said it will invest around £2.8 billion over the next five years in relation to these issues.

This will fund measures such as making embarkments more resilient, recruiting nearly 400 additional drainage engineers, training hundreds of operational staff to better interpret weather forecasts, and installing CCTV at sites with a high risk of flooding.

Read more here

Don’t be fooled by a potential FTSE record — London’s stock market is still in trouble

Wednesday 3 April 2024 12:19 , Daniel O'Boyle

If you look at a chart of the stock market going back 100 years, it will give you the impression that in the long run, you can’t lose with shares.

Even if you just go back to when the FTSE 100 was established in January 1984 with a base level of 1000, you’ve done well, since it is now just south of 8000 – that’s up around 600%.

That disguises the fact that there are long periods when shares are a dud, when you really would be better off in government bonds or the local building society’s best savings account.

The folk selling you stock market funds don’t tell you that.

Read more here

UK stock market does best under Conservative Prime Minister — unless it's Liz Truss

Wednesday 3 April 2024 11:16 , Daniel O'Boyle

The UK stock market has performed better under Conservative Prime Ministers than Labour ones – unless that PM is Liz Truss, research for the Evening Standard shows.

As an election approaches and the stock market generally regarded as in the doldrums, investors beyond the City will be looking for evidence of how their shares might fare under a new government.

Research from Bowmore Asset Management shows that the UK stock market (FTSE All Share Index) has grown by an annualised average of 4.9% per annum under Conservative governments since 1983, faster than the 3.9% per annum growth under Labour governments.

Read more here

ECB to cut in June?

Wednesday 3 April 2024 10:41 , Daniel O'Boyle

Daniele Antonucci, Chief Investment Officer at Quintet Private Bank (parent of Brown Shipley), said the latest EU inflaiton numbers set things up for a June rate cut.

Antonucci said: “The downside surprise in Eurozone inflation is likely to cement market expectations that the European Central Bank will likely start its rate cutting cycle in June.

“While there’s a degree of stickiness in the services component, non-energy industrial goods inflation continues to slow, alongside food.

“Plus, energy disinflation continues too, though to a lesser degree than previously.”

Eurozone inflation near 2%

Wednesday 3 April 2024 10:40 , Daniel O'Boyle

Inflation in the Eurozone fell to just 2.4%, within touching distance of the 2% target, in March.

the rate of price rises was expected to dip to 2.6%. The bigger-than-expected decline may put rate cuts higher on the ECB’s agenda.

The inflation rate continues to vary significantly between Eurozone countries. It is close to 0% in Lithuania, but above 4% in Austria.

Analysts at ING said: “This better-than-expected reading boosts chances of ECB rate cuts, but don’t expect them to happen this month.”

Stock market health warning as new listings dry up, FTSE 100 lower

Wednesday 3 April 2024 10:22 , Graeme Evans

The impact of minimal new listings activity over the past two years was flagged by Peel Hunt today after it warned the FTSE Smallcap will cease to exist by 2028 if current trends continue.

The City firm said the “hopper” was not being refilled at a time when lowly-valued stocks are increasingly being picked off by bidders.

Compared with 160 stocks in 2018 and 114 at the end last year, the bank said the present rate suggested there’s a danger the last company will leave the FTSE Smallcap by 2028.

It warned: “The pace of de-equitisation is relentless and will inevitably continue given the low valuation accorded to UK companies.”

The bank said there were deep-rooted issues in the UK regarding new listings and health of equity capital markets, with material consequences for long-term economic growth.

The downbeat message from Peel Hunt came on another day of underperformance by the London market, with the FTSE 100 index down 0.6% or 50.66 points to 7884.43.

Big fallers included BT Group, which dropped 2.95p to 106.8p after UBS kept its “Sell“ stance with a lower target price of 100p. Marks & Spencer was the best performer, up 2.5p to 264.5p.

Unlike leading benchmarks on Wall Street and in Europe, the top flight has failed to set record territory in recent weeks. It came close yesterday when the FTSE 100 topped 8000, only for uncertainty over the outlook for US interest rates to spark a sell-off.

Morgan Stanley to stay in Canary Wharf until 2038

Wednesday 3 April 2024 09:52 , Daniel O'Boyle

Morgan Stanley will not join the exodus of firms from Canary Wharf, as the US banking giant today extended the lease for its European HQ on Bank Street until 2038.

Big-name tenants like HSBC, Clifford Chance and Moody’s recently announced plans to leave the Docklands financial hub for the City, as the rise of hybrid work sees firms looking for smaller offices.

Morgan Stanley was reportedly considering a move of its own when its lease expired in 2028, but the new deal keeps it in Canary Wharf for a further decade.

Its chief operating officer for EMEA Chris Beatty said: “The Wharf is a great place to work and we’re looking forward to witnessing the next stages of Canary Wharf’s evolution first hand.”

De La Rue extends deal with Microsoft

Wednesday 3 April 2024 09:31 , Simon Hunt

British banknote maker De La Rue today sounded a cheery note as it reaffirmed a decades-long contract with tech giant Microsoft.

The 203-year-old firm, which prints the UK’s new plastic £5, £10 and £20 notes, agreed a five-year extension to its Microsoft deal under which it will deliver ‘authentication solutions’ until at least 2029. That includes the production of the holograms that appear on Xbox video games to prevent counterfeit sales.

De La Rue has not always been able to hold on to long-established contracts. In 2018 the Basingstoke-based business lost out on a £490 million deal to make British passports to a French rival, which saw its share price tumble. The firm’s stock is down nearly 80% over the past five years.

Purchase scam cases jumped by around a third in 2023, says Santander

Wednesday 3 April 2024 09:18 , Daniel O'Boyle

Santander saw cases of purchase scams jump by nearly a third (32%) last year, compared with 2022.

The bank said that of the total number of purchase scams reported to it in 2023, 80% started on online selling platforms or marketplaces.

Santander has teamed up with Gumtree to warn shoppers about what to look out for.

Read more here

FTSE 100 lower as BT and Entain shares retreat, Vodafone higher

Wednesday 3 April 2024 08:29 , Graeme Evans

Overnight pressure from US markets meant the FTSE 100 index drifted further from record territory today, down 24.67 points to 7910.42.

Fallers in a subdued session included BT Group, which retreated 1.4p to 108.35p, and Ladbrokes owner Entain after a decline of 11p to 746.6p.

Vodafone shares rose 0.7p to 71p and Marks & Spencer lifted 2.3p to 264.3p, with British Airways also 1.35p higher at 175.35p.

The FTSE 250 index fell 44.83 points to 19,669.63.

Market snapshot as FTSE 100 slips further

Wednesday 3 April 2024 08:27 , Daniel O'Boyle

The FTSE 100 slipped further this morning, making the record highs it approaches yesterday look distant.

Housing market slowdown hits Topps Tiles

Wednesday 3 April 2024 07:59 , Michael Hunter

Topps Tiles pointed to a slowdown in repair maintenance and improvement projects today as it reported a drop in sales for the first half.

The £87 million firm said lower demand for “bigger ticket projects has persisted into 2024” s it reported a 6% drop in sales in the period to £123 million.

Slowing housing markets have cut demand for builders merchants and DIY chains.

Topps’ like-for-likes sales fell by over 11%.

It said: “Group profitability in the first half of the year will be impacted by a number of factors including the weaker market, the timing of the holiday pay accrual and seasonally higher energy usage in the period.

“We continue to expect the Group's profits in 2024 to be weighted towards the second half as indicated in our Q1 trading update.”

Hilton Foods profits rise, buoyed by 'seafood recovery'

Wednesday 3 April 2024 07:51 , Michael Hunter

Hilton Foods, the FTSE 250 food packaging firm, hailed a recovery in its seafood business today as it reported a sharp rise in profits.

The £765 million firm reported a rise in operating profit of over a third. Revenue neared £4 billion, up almost 4%.

Steve Murrells, CEO, said: “I am particularly pleased with the results in our seafood category, returning to full year operating profitability following a successful turnaround.”

The company which has been listed in London since 2007, also said it had taken “action” in its vegan and vegetarian business to “consolidate” it into a “single operating facility.”

FTSE 100 seen lower amid US pressure, gold price at new record

Wednesday 3 April 2024 07:46 , Graeme Evans

Doubts over a June cut in US interest rates led to a retreat for Wall Street shares yesterday, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average 1% lower and the S&P 500 index down 0.7%.

The jitters reflected recent signs of resilience in US economic growth and inflation, with the price pressures also fuelled by a five-month high for Brent Crude at near $89 a barrel.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is due to give a speech later today, while traders are also focused on Friday’s release of monthly US jobs figures.

The FTSE 100 index is forecast to open about 27 points lower at 7908, having surrendered territory above 8000 during yesterday’s session. Asia markets also traded in the red overnight.

Despite the elevated interest rate outlook, the gold price today stood at a fresh record high above $2280 an ounce.

Nationwide ad starring Dominic West is ‘misleading’, watchdog says

Wednesday 3 April 2024 07:17 , Daniel O'Boyle

The ads watchdog has banned an advertisement from building society Nationwide - in which Dominic West portrays a greedy banking boss - as it ruled the UK’s top building society was “misleading” about branch closures.

The advertisement attracted 282 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), likely enough to make it one of the top-10 most-complained-about adverts of 2024, including a complaint from high-street bank Santander.

In the television version, The Crown star West plays the boss of a high-street bank who suggests closing a branch as part of a series of “cutbacks”, and acts indifferent to the concerns of customers who may have “lost their life savings”.

Dominic West stars in Nationwide's latest ad campaign (Nationwide)
Dominic West stars in Nationwide's latest ad campaign (Nationwide)

Read more here

Low-cost airlines get Easter boost

Wednesday 3 April 2024 07:17 , Daniel O'Boyle

Low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizz saw a boom in traffic in March, helped by the early arrival of Easter this year.

Ryanair carried 13.6 million passengers, last month, up 8%, with its planes 93% full. It said almost 950 flights were cancelled due to Israel/Gaza conflict.

Wizz meanwhile carried 4.8 million, up 12%, as its load factor his 90.8%. It restarted flights to Tel Aviv during the month. It said further routes will resume through the Spring and early Summer.

Recap: Yesterday's top stories

Wednesday 3 April 2024 06:45 , Simon Hunt

Good morning from the Standard City desk.

There is much to ponder on in yesterday’s Mayoral wish list from BusinessLDN, which represents thousands of private sector employers across the capital.

Perhaps the most eye-catching demand — and the one we flag up in today’s story — is the plea for far greater fiscal autonomy for whoever gets to occupy City Hall after polling day on May 2 (let’s face it, probably Sadiq Khan).

London’s local and regional government only get to keep 7% of the tax revenues harvested from workers and businesses across the capital, the other 93% goes straight to the Treasury coffers, much to pay for public spending elsewhere in the UK.

One ludicrous consequence of this is the endless rounds of negotiations between the Mayor’s Transport for London and central government over funding for the capital’s nationally important mass transit networks.

But by the end of the year the political landscape will have almost certainly changed with Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves holding the purse-strings.

With Treasury and City Hall finally on the same political page it would seem a window of opportunity for London’s government to get the longer-term financial settlement, particularly for transport, that it, and the business community, are crying out for.

Here’s a summary of our top headlines from yesterday: