The FTSE 100 powered back through the 7000 mark today with BT in the spotlight on news that it is looking to sell its Sport division.
BT has hired Lazard to help sell the business and has held talks with Dazn, the streaming group, Amazon, Walt Disney and private equity houses over sale or potential investment in the division.
Such a move, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, has been expected under chief executive Philip Jansen for some time, with analysts saying it is notable how little he talks about BT Sport.
The business was the brainchild of his predecessor Gavin Patterson and a sale would be welcomed by those who criticised the company for investing billions in football rights while customers were suffering poor broadband.
Jansen has opted to spend money on fibre investment and 5G and consider his options for the media arm. Shares jumped 2% as the company confirmed the talks
The FTSE 100 was jumped 47.87 points at 7011.54, regaining territory above the 7000 mark which it ceded after a heavy fall last Tuesday.
Strong figures from Unilever and Standard Chartered made for a positive mood on a busy Thursday for corporate news.
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StanChart surged to the top of the leader board, up more than 7% as its profits more than doubled in the first quarter to $1.4 billion. The Asia-focused London-based bank’s pre-tax profits surged way ahead of City expectations as credit costs stemming from the pandemic were far less bad than expected.
HSBC, also hugely dependent on Asia for profits, rode up 3% in the slipstream.
Unilever jumped 3% on strong profits and plans for a e3 billion share buyback
Markets were also boosted by blockbuster profit figures from Apple and Facebook which both blew through analysts’ expectations and showed the public’s huge appetite for digital devices and social media have been boosted more than ever by lockdown restrictions.
Figures for Apple’s March quarter were particularly extraordinary, with the group making revenues of $89.58 billion over the three months compared with $58.3 billion a year earlier after selling nearly $48 billion-worth of iPhones. That was partly fuelled by sales of the new 5G iPhone, which prompted millions of people to upgrade.
Sales in China were especially strong because the figures compared with the quarter last year when the country was most badly affected by Covid.
Its services arm - seen as a major future growth area - contributed nearly $17 billion.
Facebook, meanwhile, showed where global advertising has been heading. It $26 billion of revenue for the quarter was up 48% thanks to a 12% jump in ads sold and a 30% increase in ad prices.
Stock markets in Asia have already today been enjoying a bounce and US futures were trading higher, suggesting a positive session this evening.
Comments from Federal Reserve governor Jay Powell added to the optimism coming out of Silicon Valley. Having announced no-change in the central bank’s policy actions, he stressed that unemployment still remained a major problem in the US.
The Fed made no talk of tapering off its vast monetary support for the US economy.
Today, markets were awaiting the US quarterly GDP data for the first three months of the year. Forecasts are for 6.1% annualised growth. Anything lower than that will reinforce the Fed’s caution.
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