London close: Political uncertainty caps gains



LONDON (ShareCast) - If in the best of times equities would find it hard going to continue advancing in the face of higher bond yields and rising energy quotes then even more so now that political uncertainty in the Eurozone, namely in Italy this time, as well as in the US is re-emerging a little.

Thus, in the early afternoon stocks began to react quite negatively to reports that Silvio Berlusconi had managed to further close the gap - in election polls - between himself and political rival Pier Luigi Bersani to just 3.7 percentage points. That is according to the latest poll carried out by SkyTG24.

Meantime, and in the United States, the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, said he would oppose any delay in the automatic spending reduction - known as 'sequester' - which are set to go into effect come next March 1st.

Further aggravating the situation are the currently oversold technical reading to be seen for most of the world's main equity benchmarks.

In that same vein, some investor surveys are now showing elevated levels of 'insider selling', akin to those seen in in July 2011, just before the stock market fell sharply.

Despite all of the above, on Wednesday the Footsie (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) once again showed how UK equities are far more closely tied to their brethren over on the 'other side of the pond' than to their Continental (Stuttgart: 879538 - news) peers, by sharply outperforming the latter and even managing to end the day slightly in the blue.

All of the above comes ahead of the testimony by Bank of England governor-in-waiting, Mark Carney, which is due to be delivered tomorrow.

Finally, and acting as a backdrop, in its latest report the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS (SES: E1:I49.SI - news) ) harshly criticised the government's current fiscal policies.

FTSE 100: Keep them coming says Hargreaves

In UK company news, financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL.L - news) on Wednesday posted record revenues and profits for the last half of 2012 driven by a boost in client numbers. Those prompted an upgrade out of Cannacord to buy.

FTSE 100-listed metal mining company Eurasian Natural Resources was higher following the release of its fourth quarter production update. During said reporting period its Kazhak iron ore operations saw a strong rebound. Coal was another area of strength according to analysts, while the fall in copper output was due to power issues in the DRC.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (Other OTC: GLAXF - news) announced a core fourth quarter earnings per share number of 32.6p, versus the 30.9p expected by the analyst consensus.

Shares of Schroders (LSE: SDR.L - news) rose strongly following an upgrade out of analysts at Morgan Stanley (Xetra: 885836 - news) , to overweight.

Unilever (NYSE: UL - news) , on the other hand, led on the downside after going ex-dividend.

ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM.L - news) finished higher after earlier weakness in the wake of yesterday's surge and the decision by at least three brokers (Investec (LSE: INVP.L - news) , UBS (Xetra: UB0BL6 - news) and JP Morgan) to retain their 'neutral' rating on the stock. Analysts at the last of these three brokers said that "valuation remains elevated in our view, but as long as the company does not miss, we believe the stock will go up on upgrades."

RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) agreed to pay penalties of £87.5m, $325m, and $150m to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC (Taiwan OTC: 1586.TWO - news) ) and Department of Justice (DOJ), respectively. Despite the relatively modest financial impact of the above RBS opted to maintain its sell recommendation on the shares of the lender as well as its 290p price target.

FTSE 250 (FTSE: ^FTMC - news) : Man is now one of UBS's 'most preferred'
Analysts at UBS added shares of Man to their "most preferred" list, saying that "We are adding Man Group (LSE: EMG.L - news) to our most preferred list. Following December's change of leadership, we believe that management could announce material strategic changes on February 28th (fiscal year results). A review of the company's distribution capabilities (downsizing and/or adding product at minimal cost) looks likely. Long term, we believe a sale of the company remains a possibility."

Engineering (Milan: ENG.MI - news) and product management consultancy Atkins on Wednesday said it was trading in line with expectations despite challenging market conditions. The FTSE 250 company has faced difficult trading conditions over the past three months, particularly in North America, according to a business update.

International home emergency business HomeServe (LSE: HSV.L - news) reported that it expects its New Markets segment to report a fiscal year 2013 operating loss of approximately £5.5m, representing a 61.8% rise in loss for this particular business segment compared to the fiscal year 2012, when the New Markets business reported a £3.4m loss.

FTSE 100 - Risers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 815.00p +10.96%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp (LSE: ENRC.L - news) . (ENRC) 375.20p +9.01%
Schroders (SDR) 1,997.00p +2.78%
Burberry Group (NasdaqGS: BBRY - news) (BRBY) 1,428.00p +2.73%
Kazakhmys (LSE: KAZ.L - news) (KAZ) 744.50p +2.62%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,071.00p +2.47%
Vedanta Resources (Other OTC: VDNRF - news) (VED) 1,299.00p +2.12%
Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW.L - news) (TLW) 1,208.00p +2.03%
Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO.L - news) (ANTO) 1,134.00p +1.89%
Kingfisher (KGF) 278.70p +1.60%

FTSE 100 - Fallers
Unilever (ULVR) 2,545.00p -2.00%
Aviva (AV.) 352.80p -1.29%
Rexam (LSE: 3615.L - news) (REX) 462.20p -1.24%
Smiths Group (LSE: SMIN.L - news) (SMIN) 1,210.00p -0.90%
BP (BP (LSE: BP.L - news) .) 465.15p -0.76%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 170.00p -0.73%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,570.00p -0.70%
SABMiller (SAB (LSE: SAB.L - news) ) 3,161.50p -0.63%
BG Group (LSE: BG.L - news) (BG.) 1,135.00p -0.61%
Royal Dutch Shell (Xetra: A0ET6Q - news) 'B' (RDSB) 2,242.50p -0.60%

FTSE 250 - Risers
Tullett Prebon (LSE: TLPR.L - news) (TLPR) 273.00p +8.51%
Enterprise Inns (LSE: ETI.L - news) (ETI) 101.30p +6.91%
IG Group Holdings (IGG) 497.70p +6.69%
ICAP (IAP) 357.90p +5.64%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 254.90p +5.33%
Man Group (EMG) 95.40p +5.12%
ITE Group (LSE: ITE.L - news) (ITE) 265.60p +4.20%
Petra Diamonds Ltd (Other OTC: PDMDF - news) .(DI (KSE: 003160.KS - news) ) (PDL) 113.30p +4.14%
Senior (SNR) 208.70p +4.14%
Rathbone Brothers (LSE: RAT.L - news) (RAT) 1,455.00p +3.85%

FTSE 250 - Fallers
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 59.70p -4.56%
Workspace Group (LSE: WKP.L - news) (WKP) 319.50p -2.71%
Genus (GNS) 1,426.00p -2.66%
Debenhams (DEB) 96.35p -2.18%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 26.23p -2.16%
Aberforth Smaller Companies Trust (ASL) 743.50p -1.85%
Invensys (ISYS) 343.70p -1.80%
Diploma (DPLM) 570.00p -1.72%
Great Portland Estates (LSE: GPOR.L - news) (GPOR) 480.90p -1.64%
Victrex (VCT) 1,515.00p -1.43%