LONDON (ShareCast) - Better-than-expected economic data lifted the FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) over one per cent higher on Thursday afternoon, as markets shrugged off disappointing results from the world's largest technology company, Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL - news) .
American jobless claims and a US manufacturing survey from Markit came in better than forecasts today, sending London's benchmark index surge in afternoon trade. Meanwhile, the Conference Board's composite index of leading indicators increased by 0.5% in December, better than the +0.4% expected.
"All three releases have fuelled hopes for a strong recovery in the US allied with growing optimism that US lawmakers do have the will to agree on spending cuts and raise the debt ceiling without playing the same game of brinkmanship they participated in before the end of 2012," said market strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.
The S&P 500 in New York topped 1,500 following the news, the first time it has reached that level since 2007. The Dow also rose strongly, though the tech-heavy Nasdaq was being weighed down by a 10% drop from iPhone maker Apple after both revenues and profits missed forecasts.
Better-than-expected economic figures from Europe and China also lifted the mood today: the Chinese HSBC flash manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose from 51.5 to a two-year high of 51.9 in January (consensus: 51.7); meanwhile, the Eurozone composite PMI increased from 47.2 to 48.2 in December (consensus: 47.5).
ETX Capital's Siddiqi highlighted this afternoon that the FTSE 100 was outperforming other European indices today. He said: "Traders are citing rumours around tomorrow's Q4 GDP figures but it must be noted that the FTSE100 did underperform its European peers in 2012 so technically, there is plenty of room for upside. We are likely to see the index catch up with European peers through this year, especially if we continue to see more encouraging signs from China, the world's biggest consumer of commodities."
Consensus forecasts are for a 0.1% quarter-on-quarter contraction in the UK economy in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with the 0.9% growth seen in the third.
FTSE 100: CRH (NYSE: CRH - news) gains on US exposure
Building materials group CRH surged this afternoon on the back of the strong data from the US. The company is highly exposed to the US economy, with just under 50% of its first-half sales coming from the Americas region.
International Consolidated Airlines Group (known as IAG) was up following reports yesterday that it may ask its Spanish airline Iberia to stay firm on a tough cost-cutting programme. According to Spanish daily El Economista, IAG will provide a framework for Iberia to stay on course in a board meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Utilities stocks were also providing a lift today after a series of broker upgrades. HSBC (LSE: HSBA.L - news) upped its rating for Centrica (LSE: CNA.L - news) to 'overweight', while Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised its recommendation for both Severn Trent (LSE: SVT.L - news) and United Utilities (LSE: UU.L - news) to 'neutral'.
Polymetal International (Other OTC: POYYF - news) rose on news it has completed the acquisition of 100 per cent of Olymp, a Russian legal entity holding the mining and exploration licence for the Olcha gold-silver deposit. The mining sector on the whole was performing well after the strong manufacturing figures from China. However, ENRC bucked the trend after it was reported yesterday that the group approached several banks to refinance an existing loan.
FTSE 250 (FTSE: ^FTMC - news) : Gambling firms gain after Opap development
Sports betting groups bwin.party and Ladbrokes (LSE: LAD.L - news) were in demand after peer Opap's gambling monopoly was ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice. Ladbrokes also impressed with its acquisition of Global Betting Exchange Alderney (GBEA) for €30m, which will see it get its hands on the Betdaq exchange, accelerating the firm's strategy to grow digital revenues through technology investment.
Defence tech group Chemring was on the rise after presenting its full-year results. While the company recorded a sharp drop in profits, they were in line with expectations which 'counts as a positive given the recent history', according to analysts at Investec (LSE: INVP.L - news) .
Transport firm FirstGroup (LSE: FGP.L - news) rose after it said third quarter trading at the group, excluding the one-off effect of Hurricane Sandy, was in line with company expectations.
Budget airline easyJet was flying high after total revenue jumped 9.2% to £833m in the first quarter. CEO Carolyn McCall said: "easyJet has made a strong start to the year due to a combination of management action, competitor capacity reductions and the benign operating environment."
Drinks group A.G. Barr rose after saying that sales in the final quarter of the year are expected to rise 5%, with full-year sales up 7%.
Interdealer broker ICAP (LSE: IAP.L - news) fell after it confirmed that one of its subsidiaries has become subject to an Financial Services Authority (FSA) investigation, but refused to make any further comment, saying that it is 'confidential'.
FTSE 100 - Risers
CRH (CRH) 1,342.00p +5.34%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 218.40p +4.85%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 747.50p +4.18%
Croda International (Other OTC: COIHF - news) (CRDA) 2,437.00p +3.35%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 168.65p +3.18%
Wolseley (WOS) 2,983.00p +3.00%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,090.00p +2.93%
Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY.L - news) (LLOY) 53.48p +2.81%
Aberdeen Asset Management (Other OTC: ABDNF - news) (ADN) 405.50p +2.27%
ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L - news) (ARM) 867.50p +2.12%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Aggreko (AGK) 1,761.00p -3.19%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 824.50p -1.32%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 257.00p -0.85%
Capita (CPI (Other OTC: CPIC - news) ) 793.00p -0.81%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 794.00p -0.75%
Melrose Industries (Other OTC: MLSPF - news) (MRO) 241.70p -0.74%
Evraz (EVR) 306.90p -0.65%
BT Group (LSE: BT-A.L - news) (BT.A) 249.20p -0.60%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp (LSE: ENRC.L - news) . (ENRC) 339.20p -0.56%
Smiths Group (LSE: SMIN.L - news) (SMIN) 1,229.00p -0.41%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 113.80p +12.34%
London & Stamford Property (LSP) 117.10p +6.45%
FirstGroup (FGP (BSE: FGP.BO - news) ) 203.80p +6.15%
Heritage Oil (Other OTC: HGOCF - news) (HOIL) 206.50p +6.06%
ITE Group (LSE: ITE.L - news) (ITE) 273.40p +5.40%
Chemring Group (LSE: CHG.L - news) (CHG) 296.90p +5.10%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 546.50p +5.10%
easyJet (EZJ) 898.50p +5.09%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 951.50p +4.45%
Britvic (BVIC) 446.80p +3.88%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Laird (LRD) 223.40p -3.54%
Betfair Group (BET) 668.00p -2.27%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 457.10p -1.51%
Alent (ALNT) 331.00p -1.40%
Carpetright (CPR) 660.50p -1.27%
Kenmare Resources (LSE: KMR.L - news) (KMR) 33.92p -1.25%
Enterprise Inns (LSE: ETI.L - news) (ETI) 95.00p -1.04%
Hochschild Mining (Other OTC: HCHDF - news) (HOC) 438.60p -1.04%
Polar Capital Technology Trust (PCT) 377.10p -1.02%
Bumi (BUMI) 334.00p -1.01%