FTSE flat ahead of Yellen speech

Investors were holding fire ahead Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s speech on the economic outlook as this could provide hints concerning a possible US interest rate hike.

Financial stocks Standard Chartered (STAN), Barclays (BARC) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) nudged higher in anticipation, but the FTSE closed flat at 7,374.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil advanced approximately 1% to $53.21 and $55.65 per barrel, respectively.

Gold retreated 0.4% to $1,226 per ounce and copper was 0.2% lower at $5,886 per tonne.

WPP was the biggest blue-chip faller as it suffered a slow start to 2017. Management said January like-for-like revenue was only up 1.5% and blamed strong comparative figures a year earlier.

This overshadowed a strong set of full year results for 2016 with headline pre-tax profit up 9.1% excluding foreign currency rates and a hike in the dividend of 26.7%.

In the UK, service sector growth fell to a five-month low in February as input cost inflation reached its highest level in eight and a half years. Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index fell from 54.5 I January to 53.5 in February.


On Wall Street, investor appetite was subdued after opening on Friday as the market waited for Yellen’s speech, which is likely to dictate whether equities will recover momentum.

Worldwide, most stock markets remained depressed, including in Asia.


London Stock Exchange (LSE) reported a 17% rise in total income for 2016 to £1.65bn. It said work continues on the proposed merger with Deutsche Borse, but investors are starting to believe the deal won’t happen.

AstraZeneca’s (AZN) biologics R&D arm MedImmune agreed to develop and commercialise monoclonal antibody MEDI8897 with Sanofi Pasteur, nudging the shares higher.


Gold miner Acacia (ACA) ceased exports of gold and copper concentrate following an announcement from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals. It said the ban was made following a directive made by the President of Tanzania.

Operating profit at industrial linen processor Berendsen (BRSN) was up 5% to £161m last year, but excluding currency exchange rates, this was actually 4% lower. The market was not fooled and the share price fell by 11.4% to 823.5p.


West African miner Kodal Minerals (KOD) said it will start drilling a lithium prospect in the next few days and potentially issue a maiden resource statement later this year, causing the stock to soar by 27.3%.

Budget airline Ryanair (RYA) unveiled decent traffic numbers for February with 10% growth, but this failed to move the share price.

Nanotechnology enhancing solutions Graphene NanoChem (GRPH) received a firm commitment for the deployment of its oilfield recovery additive PlatSurF from a Middle Eastern oil and gas firm. The stock climbed 22.4%.

Intercede (IGP) cautioned that losses for the year to 31 March 2017 may be higher than expectations if it fails to get further orders in the current year. Investors ran for the exit, causing the stock to crash by 13.4%.

Recruiter Harvey Nash (HVN) reported full year results for the year to January 2017 will hit market expectations, although the underlying business wasn’t progressing, which was exposed by constant currency figures. Gross profit was down 1% in the year with weakness in Asia failing to be offset by gains in mainland Europe.

Sales are expected to exceed €18m at Venn Life Sciences (VENN) for 2016, ahead of analysts’ €16.5m forecast. Strong momentum continued into 2017 with €5.7m worth of new contracts signed in January and February.

Velocys (VLS) sealed a deal with Morimatsu for the latter to be its preferred supplier of engineering and fabrication services for gas-to-liquid plants.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com