The FTSE 100 is set to open 0.3% lower today, cooling off after yesterday’s rally, which saw the UK blue chip index tack on 0.9% on positive US and UK data. A UK retail sales update showed a month on month growth of 2.1% following a 3.5% decline in February, while US initial jobless claims data revealed a steeper than expected decline of 14,000 in initial jobless claims last week to 442,000. However, stocks were weakened later in the day by a disappointing Treasury auction in the US.
In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average pared early gains to finish flat. The broader S&P 500 index slid 0.15% and the technology heavy NASDAQ composite also closed flat.
Asian stocks advanced today. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 1.4%, China’s Shanghai Composite Index rallied 1.3%, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 1.55%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.25% and South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.55%.
In the UK, tour operator Thomas Cook Group (LSE: TCG) led the blue chips, advancing 6% on a positive trading update. Clothing retailer Next (LSE: NXT) rallied 5% after releasing its final results. Oil and gas producer Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE) and Scottish & Southern Energy (LSE: SSE) followed, rising 3.6%. Fashion house Burberry (LSE: BRBY), airline British Airways (LSE: BAY) and publishers Reed Elsevier (LSE: REL) and Pearson (LSE: PSON) tacked on more than 3%. Banking group HSBC (LSE: HSBA) and plumbing and heating equipment manufacturer Wolseley (LSE: WOS) rose 3%.
Just five FTSE 100 constituents lost more than 1%v yesterday. Insurer Old Mutual (LSE: OML) was at the bottom of the pile with a 1.6% decline. Base metal miner Eurasian Natural Resources (LSE: ENRC) and retailer Kingfisher (LSE: KGF) slid 1.2% and mobile operator Vodafone (LSE: VOD) and car insurer Admiral Group (LSE: ADM) were down 1.1%.
Oil prices rose today as May Brent Crude reached US$80.10/barrel, while US light, sweet crude improved to US$80.97/barrel.
Precious metals also improved. Gold advanced to US$1,096/oz, while silver and platinum reached US$16.82/oz and US$1,603/oz respectively.
Base metals followed. Copper and nickel rose to US$3.37/lb and US$10.49/lb, while zinc held steady at US$1.00/lb.
Investors will be looking to the final reading of US Q4 GDP and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey for March.