UK stocks edge up as investors nervously eye crunch ECB meeting

The FTSE 100 edges higher this morning on expectations of the announcement that the European Central Bank will being money-printing.


All eyes are on the European Central Bank today

UK stocks mustered gains in early action with investors jittery ahead of the European Central Bank's (ECB) executive board revealing this afternoon whether the bank will embark on a programme of quantitative easing.

At 10am, the FTSE 100 was up by 5.5 points to 6,733.

Is it to be or not be QE from the ECB?: Hopes of fresh stimulus from the ECB waxed and waned over the last six months, but today just about everyone is expecting the bank to announce a QE programme this afternoon in an effort to shake the eurozone economy out of its torpor.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Markets recently have been pricing in fresh stimulus and will be mightily disappointed if nothing emerges.

Exactly how much money the bank might pump into the region is unclear, but most media reports are speculating it could be up to one trillion euros, with the bank purchasing roughly €50bn (£38bn) a month in bonds for at least a year.

Not everyone, however, is convinced a QE programme will help restore growth to eurozone. The former head of Germany's central bank, Axel Weber, said in an interview with BBC Radio's Today programme this morning that the scheme will not solve Europe's problems.

In particular, it won't help unemployment, which, he argues, is a structural problem caused by inflexible labour markets, pensions systems, medical systems amid an ageing population. Governments need to tackle those problems he adds.

Royal Mail delivers again: Royal Mail (LSE: RMG) led the FTSE 100 leader board after it assured investors that it expects to meet full-year forecasts after a busy festive period, with parcel numbers up 4% at 120 million in December alone. Revenue for the nine months to 28 December was 1% ahead of last year. Its shares rose by 3.8% to 446.80p.

Elsewhere on the corporate front, Imperial Tobacco (LSE: IMT) shares fell on the news that the government plans to force tobacco companies to introduceplain cigarette packaging in England. A law could come into force in 2016 after ministers said MPs would be asked to vote on the plan before May's general election. Imperial Tobacco's shares fell 1.06% to 2,974p.

Infrastructure group Balfour Beatty (LSE: BBY) eased by 1.4% to 203p after it signalled that its 2014 UK construction profits will be around £70m lower than previous guidance. A review of the business by advisers KPMG has uncovered a host of contract issues. Chief executive Leo Quinn, who took over at the helm last October, ordered the review.

Another decima for Real Madrid: Ten times European champions Real Madrid have topped the Deloitte football rich list for a tenth straight year.

Manchester United has jumped up from fourth to second on the list, which is based on season 2013-14 revenues. Following the Reds on the list are Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.

English clubs Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool were placed sixth to ninth, with all healthy rises in revenues.

Daydreaming in Davos: At the annual jamboree for the rich and famous Bill Gates has urged the super-uber-rich to follow in his footsteps and give more of their money away to philanthropic ventures.

He tells BBC Radio's Today from Davos that global wealth inequality has fallen but that individual countries are seeing greater inequality, which has a lot to do with tax policy and a lack of philanthropic activity. You tell em Bill.

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.