A powerful year-end rally leaves the FTSE 100 trading above 7,700 for the first time ever, buoyed by a perceived acceleration in global activity, increases in commodity prices and the ongoing search for yield in a world where interest rates remain low and are rising only slowly.
“Some investors may be feeling a little groggy today after a sharp pullback in two cannabis tracker funds which are traded in America, following comments from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he may rescind the Obama administration’s ‘Cole Memo,’ which loosened federal rules on medical or recreational use of marijuana,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
“America created fewer jobs than economists expected in December, with the addition of 148,000 non-farm jobs undershooting the consensus forecast of 190,000,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould. “However, this is unlikely to shake the Fed from its planned course of three more interest rate hikes in 2018, especially as job cuts in 2017 reached their lowest level since 1990* and wage inflated inched higher to 2.5%.”
Gold may have been put in the shade by a barnstorming performance from global equities (and Bitcoin) but it rose by a perfectly respectable 13% in dollar terms in 2017 and it has started the new year with rattle, going back above $1,300 an ounce.
“Eight months after launching his Debenhams Redesigned strategy, Sergio Bucher, the company’s boss, must be wondering what he has let himself in for by taking the job, as today’s huge profit warning means it looks more like a case of Debenhams Undone,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
“One technical sign of a really healthy market is good breadth, with lots of the constituents taking an index higher, while it can be a cause for concern if a small group of heavyweight stocks or just one hot sector, is responsible for a benchmark’s gains,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
“In a marked contrast to the start of 2017, when a profit warning hammered the shares, Next sits proudly at the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard after its Christmas statement showed improved full-price sales momentum, exceeded profit expectations and offered a £300 million share buyback, as the firm demonstrated the power of its online operations,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
“A slight decline in UK manufacturing activity according to the latest monthly survey shows how even the modest gains made by the pound in late 2017 could provide a headwind to companies and their exports in particular in 2018, a factor which may well influence Bank of England thinking when it comes to setting interest rates in the coming year,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
“In dollar terms silver is broadly flat this year and gold up by some 10%, returns which pale in comparison to those made by any intrepid soul who piled into Bitcoin back in January - some 1,500%,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
Investors can now trade in Bitcoin futures as an alternative to buying the actual cryptocurrency, so they can now take a view on its price movement without owning it. Anyone who feels Bitcoin is capable of going higher can therefore get involved, although anyone who has their reservations is likely to stay well clear.
“Whether Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s comments on Tuesday about the London Stock Exchange Group’s (LSEG) succession plans had any impact or not, this messy situation has been resolved in one way by the decision of chief executive Xavier Rolet to step down immediately and chairman Donald Brydon’s choice not to seek re-election in 2019,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“Chinatown-owner Shaftesbury continues to defy the doubters of the UK commercial property market with a 12% increase in its net asset value per share and a 9% increase in its full-year dividend,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
“The fourth annual round of banking stress tests may not totally satisfy those who argue that 2007-09 was a liquidity crisis and not a solvency crisis, but the Bank of England may be happy to take the relatively minor share price movements in the Big Five FTSE 100 banks this morning as a sign that investors share its view that the major lenders are much better placed to withstand the next economic and financial market downturn,” says Russ Mould, AJ Bell Investment Director.
The final FTSE reshuffle of 2017 will be based on this evening’s closing prices and barring any dramatic changes today Just Eat, DS Smith and Halma will be promoted to the FTSE 100 at the expense of Merlin, ConvaTec and Babcock.
“A profit warning amid falling customer numbers and price pressure means that shares in Centrica are showing a double-digit fall in early trade, amid worries over the long-term sustainability of the dividend.
Analysis from AJ Bell shows that first time buyers can use a combination of the new stamp duty relief and the Lifetime ISA (LISA) to pay for 10% of their house purchase.
“Better-than-expected full-year profits, a 50% increase in its dividend to 8.1p and a £100 million special dividend (worth around another 21p per share) mean that Upper Crust-owner SSP is providing investors with a feast of good news today and the shares are up strongly to a new all-time high as a result,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and his colleagues on the Monetary Policy Committee will not welcome this week’s latest bout of weakness in sterling or renewed strength in the oil price, as both are complicating factors when it comes to inflation, which at 3% is still running some away above the official 2% target,” comments Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
“Shareholders in both Tesco and Booker seem pleased that the regulator has provisionally cleared their £3.7 billion merger, as in early trading both stocks were right at the top of the FTSE All-Share index and that benchmark has around 640 members,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“Investors have decided to throw back their shares in Fishing Republic this morning after a disappointing trading update which reinforces two key lessons for anyone with a portfolio of stocks, whether they own this tiddler or not,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
Proprietary research from AJ Bell shows that 42 members of the UK’s FTSE 100 paid a tax rate in their last financial year that came in below the UK’s then official 20% corporate rate – and although 11 paid less than 10%, conspiracy theorists are likely to be disappointed, since the global nature of their operations and legitimate tax breaks such as those for loss carry forwards or investment generally explain the difference.
“Stock markets can be terribly impatient things and the indifferent response given to Marks & Spencer’s interim results is a good example of this. The shares are down even though there are signs of improving momentum in the Clothing & Home operation and the plans outlined by Steve Rowe as part of the ‘next phase’ of his turnaround plan make sense – and a lot more sense than some of the fripperies introduced at the end of the Bolland era, such as share buybacks,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“Meagre US wage growth of just 2.4% year-on-year, despite bumper jobs growth of 261,000 for the month of October, represents a teaser for the US Federal Reserve in the short-term and investors in the long-term,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“The first Bank of England interest rate hike in over 10 years will be the only interest rate increase many people have ever seen,” comments Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell.
“The Bank of England has finally followed up on one of its heavy hints and delivered the first interest rate rise since July 2007. However, several reasons it has given for its prior inactivity remain valid, notably poor wage growth and the uncertainty created by Brexit,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
“A powerful combination of higher production, higher selling prices and lower costs mean that Shell’s profits improved substantially in the third quarter and with oil bubbling up to the $61-a-barrel level there is a chance that there could be further increases to come,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
A downbeat outlook for Christmas trading is weighing on Next today as the High Street bellwether’s shares slump to the bottom of the FTSE 100.
Banking stock indices are trading at or near year-highs the world over yet Barclays’ shares are languishing at their year lows, despite an apparently attractive valuation, as investors yet again ponder whether the investment banking operation is really worth the trouble at the giant bank.
After a long and painful retrenchment and restructuring process Lloyds’ preparation for next February’s Strategic Review suggests the lender’s management team is gearing up for a dash for growth but this may be precisely what a lot of its shareholders do not want, as they are looking for a safe utility bank which pays them a safe and reliable dividend. This, coupled with the company’s valuation, explains why the shares are responding so indifferently to a good set of third-quarter results.
Flat profits at Costa Coffee, a slowdown in the key hotel industry metric of revenue per available room and near-term uncertainty over both cost inflation and the UK’s near-term economic outlook are taking the steam out of Whitbread’s shares this morning.
Japan is (still) where no Western investor or central banker wants to go, at least in terms of its 25-year struggle against deflation, but a third straight General Election victory clears the way for Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to pursue the policies that he thinks can finally stoke consistent growth, aided and abetted by Bank of Japan and its Governor Haruhiko Kuroda.
There can be no doubt that the new management team at bakery-to-cakes-to-ingredients group Real Good Food have inherited a mess but today’s profit warning is a big blow, especially as it comes barely a month after the company stated that its planned capacity additions were very much on track.
No company can be held responsible for the impact of acts of terror or the weather upon its business and nor can investors predict such unpredictable developments either but today’s crunching share price fall at Merlin Entertainment following a profit warning which cites these very factors offers three useful lessons.
A profit warning means that GKN is the worst performer in the FTSE 100 today and although the impact of a pair of legal claims upon profits were hard to spot, the company’s accounts had given a few clues that it had very little margin for error if underlying trading took any sort of turn for the worse.
A first quarter-trading statement from Hays highlights the much stronger fee growth in evidence in Europe compared to the UK, completing the picture painted by trading updates from FTSE 250 recruitment agency peers Robert Walters and PageGroup.
Shares in orthopaedic implant and wound care specialist Smith & Nephew are surging amid (as yet unconfirmed) reports that American activist investor Elliott Management has taken a stake in the FTSE 100 firm.
“Trinity Mirror seems to be managing the decline of print circulation and advertising as well as anyone, but the share price does not seem interested and the combination of a very lowly valuation and a very high dividend yield is more likely to generate an attack of nerves than fresh interest, as shareholders in Carillion can testify,” comments Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
“A far-weaker-than-expected US non-farm payrolls figure for September may not deflect the Federal Reserve from pushing through its third interest rate in 2017 (and fifth of this cycle) as unemployment continues to creep lower and wage growth finally shows some signs of accelerating” comments Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
Shares in plumbers’ merchant Ferguson are flying to the top of the FTSE 100 leader board this morning, buoyed by a solid set of full-year figures, a 10% hike to its dividend and a new £500 million share buyback programme. But the statement from the company formerly known as Wolseley still leaves three questions answered and investors will want to get a solid grip on all three before they look to take the shares even higher.
Tesco’s shares are below where they were a year ago (despite a 6% advance in the FTSE 100 over the same period) and today’s results show why, even if investors will be delighted to see the company reinitiate dividend payments with an interim cash distribution of 1p per share.
A slight improvement in the reading from a sentiment survey of the UK’s service industries offers a little encouragement for Britain’s near-term growth prospects but it does not make the Bank of England’s job any easier as it prepares to set interest rates again on 2 November and then 14 December.
After three bail-outs in the last three years, budget airline Monarch has finally been grounded, weighed down by operational losses and leasing payments on its aircraft fleet at a time when competition between carriers remains as fierce as ever.
Shares in Carillion are slumping today as the terribly messy set of first half-numbers still leave management trying to untangle its finances and beg the question why anyone would want to bid for the company.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision by Transport for London not to renew Uber’s licence, the failure by the world’s largest start-up to abide by two simple rules means it still has a long way to go to permanently win over customers, regulators and investors, whether you believe its $68 billion valuation or not.
The FTSE 100 is making heavy weather of making fresh gains and reaching new all-time highs and one possible explanation for its pedestrian progress is that earnings forecasts have stopped going up.
A third profit warning in 18 months from support services group Interserve is hammering the shares today and leaves new chief executive Debbie White with a big job on her hands – but a cursory glance at August’s interim results would have given both investors and the new boss a clear indication of the risks and challenges that lay ahead.
A renewed focus on customer satisfaction and providing a quality product at a fair price is already reaping dividends at Bovis, as the FTSE 250 house builder targets higher-than-expected shareholder payouts for 2017 and 2018, as well as special dividends out to 2020.
A profit warning from restaurant group Fulham Shore has knocked more than a fifth of the AIM-quoted company’s stock market valuation, as the owner of the Franco Manca and Real Greek chains joins Wildwood-owner Tasty, Richoux and Comptoir Libanais by flagging tougher trading conditions.
“Analysts and economists continue to fret about Brexit but strong full-year results from builder Redrow make it clear that people still need homes to live in, whatever the political situation,” comments Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
Bids this year for FTSE 100 firms Worldpay, Sky and Unilever, as well as mid-cap names such as Berendsen, Paysafe, Jimmy Choo, Cape, Novae and now a third attempt by France’s Schneider to strike a complex merger deal with AVEVA, all suggest that the pound’s plunge over the past year means UK-quoted companies still look attractive to potential overseas predators.
DIY specialist Kingfisher is having to reply on self-help plans and cost-cutting to meet analysts’ forecasts for the year to January, as a disappointing second-quarter trading update reveals a further deterioration in like-for-like sales growth.
The delivery of a first-half trading update that was simply no worse than expected is proving enough to take Next to the top of the FTSE 100 this morning, helped by confirmation of the retailer’s special dividend plan and a rally in the pound, as well as the absence of any further profit warning. This is not to say the results were pretty.
Shares in megabank HSBC are trading at post-financial-crisis highs, helped by a set of solid interims, an unchanged dividend and a new $2 billion share buyback scheme as the lender makes the most of buoyant conditions in Asia.
Intu’s departure from the FTSE 100 last month suggests that investors are starting to fret about how the switch to online shopping could hit the value of retail properties but strong interim results from warehouse owner SEGRO, which took Intu’s place among the UK’s corporate elite, show who is benefitting from the surge in shopping from home.
Health-to-hygiene group Reckitt Benckiser’s interims will soothe fans of the stock but may not fully persuade the sceptics that its growth prospects justify the company’s lofty valuation, especially as life-for-like sales progress remains limited and adjusted earnings figures put a flattering gloss on the first half.
The West would be ecstatic if its economies were to suddenly start growing by nearly 7% a year but the second-quarter increase of 6.9% generated by China is the norm for the Middle Kingdom and this figure should help to reassure those who are worried that Beijing’s gathering debt mountain mean it could one day suffer a hard landing.
“Even though they are trading near four-year lows, shares in Babcock are receiving little love from investors this morning, even as the support services giant offers some reassurance on its order backlog in a brief first-quarter trading update,” says AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould.
Shareholders will be delighted by today’s upbeat trading statement from Barratt Developments as the FTSE 100 firm unveils better-than-expected pre-tax profits, but very modest growth in actual housing completions will be less welcome with those struggling to get onto the property ladder (and possibly the Government) as prices creep ever higher.
A profit and dividend catastrophe at Carillion, which is also prompting chief executive Richard Howson to step down after five-and-a-half years at the helm, offers useful lessons to private investors, besides a killing to some shrewd professional ones.
An early 2% fall puts M&S in amongst the worst five performers in the FTSE 100, taking the shares back to where they were in April (and still way below the 400p-a-share bid offered by Sir Philip Green, all the way back in 2004).
A closing overnight price of $16.99 means shares in Snap are now trading below their $17 flotation price, as technology stocks’ valuations come under fresh scrutiny.
Encouraging trading updates from nationwide house builder Persimmon and Northern-focused builder and urban regeneration expert MJ Gleeson both offer further evidence that the UK residential property market is holding up well, just over a year after Brexit and in the midst of ongoing political uncertainty.
Debenhams shares sank 4% to levels not seen since the end of the last bear market in spring 2009 as new chief executive officer Sergio Bucher admitted that trading in the 15 weeks to 17 June had been “volatile”.
Switzerland’s Nestlé, owner of beloved British brands such as KitKat, Aero, Jelly Tots, Fruit Pastilles and Yorkie, is facing calls from American investor Daniel Loeb to improve its financial and share price performance.
Second-guessing Tony Pidgeley, chairman is Berkeley Homes, is unwise, so it is not surprising that investors are taking heed by marking the shares higher this morning, as the company’s full-year results reveal it is still adding to land bank and planning further cash returns via a mixture of share buybacks and dividends.
An unexpected shift towards increasing interest rates on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is driving the pound higher and at the same time kicking the FTSE 100 lower.
Just as investors had begun to give up on the Federal Reserve following through on its plan to deliver three interest rate hikes this year, the US central bank has pushed through a second rate, reaffirmed its plans for a third and even stated it intends to start to sterilise its huge Quantitative Easing (QE) programme.
Higher-than-expected sales completions, a 13% jump in the weekly reservation rate and an increased order backlog are all chiming with investors in FTSE 250 house builder Bellway today, as the shares are trading up by more than 4% in early trading, to take them back to where they were in early 2016 before Brexit jitters began to hit home.
“It might not be a household name although a record of 38 consecutive increases of more than 5% in Halma’s annual dividend suggests that it should be,” comments Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
A thumping stated operating loss and a big cut in the full-year dividend both mean that Mitie’s first set of full-year results under new boss Phil Bentley are pretty ugly, but the conclusion to the accounting review, the launch of a new strategy and a drop in net debt are all giving the shares a lift.
As investors prepare to head to the polls tomorrow, the relative calm pervading the UK stock market suggests investors are pricing in a conservative win. Any other result could therefore lead to some short term volatility but investors should not let this distract them from their long term strategies.
The latest reshuffle of the FTSE 100 is due to be confirmed this evening and based on current market capitalisations Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Intu Properties are due to be relegated to the FTSE 250. Royal Mail is hovering on the fringes of relegation, although it looks safe this time around.
Early gains in Marks & Spencer shares are taking the stock to fresh 12-month highs as chief executive Steve Rowe targets further strategic and operational changes designed to improve financial performance - even if today’s 2016-17 figures are messy and still raise as many questions as they give answers.
In the Jack Nicholson film Chinatown the powerful Noah Cross remarks that even ugly buildings become respectable if they last long enough, so it is perhaps only to be expected that FTSE 250 property play Shaftesbury is attracting a potential suitor, given its owns 14 acres of prime (and far from ugly) London property, including Chinatown, Soho, Carnaby Street and Charlotte Street.
A 3% increase in net asset value, a 3% dividend increase for the year just ended and a planned identical hike for the year just begun are not providing support to British Land's shares as investors continue to focus on the possible impact of Brexit, retailers' woes and the Labour Party's proposed Robin Hood tax upon the FTSE 100 Real Estate Investment Trust.
Higher cash flow and yet another dividend increase are giving a boost to Vodafone’s shares but the juicy 5.5% yield looks necessary to compensate investors for the modest underlying sales and profit increase revealed by both this set of annual numbers and weak long-term record of growing book, or net asset, value.
Today’s statement from the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee notes that “monetary policy can respond in either direction to changes in the economic outlook” and the 7-1 and 8-0 votes against tighter policy hardly smack of a central bank itching to raise interest rates, especially as the sole dissenter, Kristin Forbes, is stepping down in June.
A recommendation from the management team at Hornby that investors shunt into the sidings a 32.375p-a-share offer from Phoenix Asset Management leaves shareholders with three possible options when it comes to rescuing something from a situation where there seems to be little light at the end of the tunnel for the Corgi, Humbrol and Airfix brands owner.
Although the better-than-expected first quarter results are putting BP at the very top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard in early trading, with a 2% gain, sceptics of the stock will point out that free cash flow yet again does not cover the quarterly dividend payment of $0.10 a share, fuelling debate over whether the oil major’s shareholder payout could eventually come under pressure.
The monthly manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI) soared to 57.3, the highest reading since November 2013 and comfortably above the last 12 months’ average of 53.8.
“A 68% jump in stated net income at Lloyds is giving the high street lender’s shares an early boost as investors feel the width of the bank’s first-quarter profits and decide not to worry about the quality,” comments Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.