UK stocks roundup: the four biggest stories of the day so far

As UK stocks make steady progress this morning, Kam Patel rounds up the most important stories of the day so far.


UK stocks made modest gains in early trading

Around mid-morning, the FTSE 100 was ahead around ten points to 6,560.

Here are some of the biggest stories this morning.

1. China markets slump after crack down on margin trading

The Shanghai Composite fell 7.7% to close at 3,115.09 after China's securities regulator CSRC collared three top brokerages for allegedly illegal activities in their margin business, banning them from opening new margin accounts for three months. The brokerages are alleged to have extended margin trading contracts in violation of the rules.

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The regulator believes that aggressive margin trading practices have been responsible for fuelling previous rallies. The Shanghai Composite has soared more nearly 70% over the last 12 months.

In a margin trade, investors use their own money for just a portion of their stock purchase, borrowing the rest from a broker. The loans are backed by the investors' equity holdings, meaning that they may be forced to sell when prices fall to repay their debt.

According to the FT outstanding margin loans standing as of Friday stood at Rmb767bn ($123bn), up from Rmb444bn at the end of October.

2. Opec looking to drive competitors out of business

3. British Gas to cut gas prices

announced plans

Elsewhere on the corporate front infrastructure company John Laing announced this morning that it plans to list on the stock market, a move it hopes will raise £130m and value the company at around £1bn. Founded in 1848, its past projects include work on the M1 and the Sizewell B power station. The company was listed on the stock market originally in 1953, before being taken private in 2007.

Chocolate maker Thorntons saw its shares rise 1.8% to 80.45p after it posted a 6.4% decline in sales for the 14 weeks to 10 January. That, however, is better than the 11.9% drop it notched up over the previous quarter. In late December its shares dived 25% when it warned that annual profits would fall in the current financial year. Today's result suggests the firm is recovering its poise.

4. Syriza shocker on the cards

opinion polls suggest

Kam Patel

Kam is a former deputy editor at Hemscott Invest and online editor, City A.M and he was also previously the Digital Editor at IFA Magazine. Kam is currently a senior journalist at The Global Treasurer and contributes to MoneyWeek. Kam shares expertise on the FTSE 100, investing and global stocks.