FTSE hits record high as pound slumps

The FTSE 100 hit a new record high at 7,382 as the pound weakened against the dollar by 0.5% to $1.23 thanks, in part, to subdued manufacturing growth in the UK.

Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ index fell from 55.7 in January to 54.6 in February as rising input prices dragged on growth.

A number of blue-chip stocks have overseas earnings, which are effectively boosted by the lower pound.

Banks continued to dominate the blue-chip index as speculation increased that a US interest rate hike will happen this month.

High street banks HSBC (HSBA), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Barclays (BARC) rallied by at least 2.2%.

Oil giants BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) made similar gains as they both offered the market greater confidence on their respective growth prospects.

The companies are among the top constituents in the FTSE 100 so they contributed to the FTSE’s rally.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil was flat at $54 and $56.53 per barrel, respectively.

Gold retreated 0.5% to $1,246 per ounce and copper was up 0.7% at $5,996 per tonne.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones enjoyed a 1% rally on Wednesday as investors reacted to President Donald Trump’s economic plans for the US yesterday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rallied 1.4% on Wednesday as a weaker yen boosted exports from the country.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Shanghai’s SSE Composite failed to follow Japan’s lead and closed flat.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Broadcaster of The Voice, ITV (ITV), nudged higher despite pre-tax profits falling from £641m to £553m as net advertising revenues declined by 3%. CEO Adam Crozier said ITV Studios will return to good organic sales growth in 2017 and reported a 5p special dividend on top of a 20% hike in the full year payout to 7.2p.

Road building materials business CRH (CRH) impressed the market after revealing margins and returns were ahead in every division and year-end debt was ahead of target. There was also a positive development strategy update, which highlighted recent acquisitions and divestments.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

The largest coking coal producer in Russia, Evraz (EVR), rallied on strong full year results thanks to a surge in the coking coal price as well as cost-cutting initiatives. CEO Alexander Frolov remained ‘cautiously optimistic about the market environment’ and believes Evraz will generate resilient free cash flow.

Investors were relieved that outsourcer Mitie (MTO) disposed of its loss-making social care division to specialist healthcare investor Apposite for £2.

Land Rover distributor Inchcape (INCH) sustained its track record of growth in 2016. Management said it is performing well in emerging markets and profits from used vehicles and aftersales were strong.

Chemicals group Elementis (ELM) cheapened 1.7% on a sharp decline in full year profits. This was caused by the stronger dollar and lower oil prices, which hurt its chromium business and negatively impacted demand in the energy sector.

International Personal Finance (IPF) crashed 9.5% on a £23.5m slump in pre-tax profits to £92.6m for 2016, reflecting lower home credit profit and higher investment in its digital business.

SMALL CAPS RISERS AND FALLERS

Cyber security firm NCC (NCC) announced Rob Cotton has stepped down as CEO with immediate effect, which wasn’t a surprise following recent profit warnings. Brian Tenner will take over as interim CEO and lead a strategic review.

Biotech firm ValiRx (VAL) raised £1.16m, which will be used mainly on the clinical development of cancer treatment VAL401 and supporting the opening of additional trial centres to complete specific clinical trials.

IGas (IGAS) plummeted 31.5% as it seeks to raise additional funds through shareholders to ‘capitalise on value accretive opportunities.

Troubled courier business DX (DX.) suffered more bad news as its proposed plans for developing a new central hub at a site in Essington in the West Midlands was declined by the local authority.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com