Pound strengthens after MPs support Brexit bill

MPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Brexit bill which allows the Prime Minister to start the formal process of leaving the EU.

The pound rose 0.3% against the dollar as the market was optimistic ahead of a white paper being published later today outlining the Government’s Brexit strategy.

In corporate news, multinational oil and gas firm Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) reduced borrowings and improved fourth quarter cash flow performance, up from $5.4bn to $9.2bn year-on-year.

Investors focused on the positives instead of an 8% slide in earnings, pushing the stock 1.7% higher.

Shell is the biggest company in the FTSE 100 index, so a decent move in its share price can have a major influence on the broader market. That was evident today as its share price gain helped to push up the FTSE 100 by 0.2% to 7,126.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil gained at least 0.6% to $54.20 and $57.29 per barrel, respectively.

Gold glittered at $1,220 per ounce and copper increased 0.3% to $5,974 per tonne.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 closed on Wednesday in the black.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed 1.2% lower as marine transport and fishing sector dragged the index lower.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was 0.6% lower, while Shanghai’s SSE Composite was 0.3% higher.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Reckitt Benckiser (RB.), the consumer goods giant behind brands such as Nurofen, revealed it is in advanced negotiations to buy US baby formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) for $16.7bn.

Pharmaceutical business AstraZeneca (AZN) warned of falling profit and revenue in 2017 as generic versions of its cholesterol drug Crestor continued to hit sales.

Telecoms giant Vodafone (VOD) said full year earnings would be at ‘the lower end of guidance’, causing the stock to fall 0.6%.

Catering giant Compass (CPG) was in positive territory after revealing a £74m currency boost to profit from the devaluation of the pound.

The appointment of former Travelex boss Peter Jackson as chief executive of payment processing firm WorldPay (WPG) was overshadowed by a £606m placing of shares held by major investors Bain Capital and Advent Funds. WorldPay fell 4.2% to 275.5p.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Scottish investment company Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) slipped 3% to 250p as it reported net outflows from its funds (which are concentrated in emerging markets) of £10.5bn in the fourth quarter.

Sport betting stock GVC (GVC) sparked 4.8% higher to 645.5p as it flagged that full year net gaming revenue rose by 9%, ahead of its previous estimate.

Budget airline Wizz Air (WIZZ) started to bounce back from its profit guidance cut on Wednesday. It reported a jump in passengers to 1.9 million in January 2017 versus 1.6 million in the same period a year earlier.

Sausages producer Cranswick (CWK) was flat despite trading in line with expectations. Investors were cautious over rising input costs and debt.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Mineral explorer Kodal Minerals (KOD) reported its first drilling intersection from Ngoualana were encouraging with wide and high-grade mineralisation. Investors were excited, marking the stock 13.7% higher.

Shares in Avocet Mining (AVM) slid in the opposite direction as the company said it needed between $11m and $14m to develop three satellite projects.

Beach holidays provider On the Beach (OTB) performed well in the first quarter of its financial year as revenue grew by over 20%.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com