Daily Business Live

Markets fall ahead of Ukraine talks | retail sales higher


5pm: Markets focused on Ukraine

The FTSE 100 closed lower Friday as Russia-Ukraine tensions continued to be the focus for traders.

The Ukrainian government and Russian state-controlled media accused each side of violating ceasefire agreements at the border.

At the close, the UK blue-chip index fell 24 points, or 0.32%, to hit 7,513. The top gainer was Standard Chartered, up 3.4% to 576.9p.  

NatWest Group was 2.41% weaker despite saying it swung to a full-year profit as it released more than £1.2bn in cash set aside for loan defaults during the Covid pandemic, adding that it expected to achieve a return on tangible equity “comfortably” above 10% in 2023.

Online supermarket Ocado tumbled 4.45% a day after announcing that it and France’s Groupe Casino would develop logistics warehouses for French retailers, signing a deal to extend their current partnership.

Wall Street stocks were mixed after the Dow Jones Industrial Average‘s worst day of the year so far as traders monitored developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and digested a disappointing initial jobless claims report.

Investors were still firmly focused on Russia and Ukraine at the opening bell after the latter accused pro-Russian separatists of attacking a village near the border and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations that the situation was now at a “moment of peril”.

Mr Blinken has accepted an invitation from Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet next week, provided there is no further Russian incursions into Ukraine.

7.30am: Retail sales rise

Retail sales volumes rose by 1.9% in January 2022 following a fall of 4% in December 2021, while the proportion of retail sales online fell to 25.3% in January, its lowest level since March 2020 (22.7%).

… more follows

7am: NatWest in profit

NatWest Group, trading as RBS in Scotland, returned to profitability, with an operating profit of £4 billion, excluding the Irish operations of Ulster Bank which is being sold.

The whole group reported operating profit of £4.3bn figure which compares to a loss of £351m in the previous 12 months.

The bank is distributing £298m in bonuses, a 44% increase on 2020 and 3% lower than in 2019. A proposed final divided of 7.5p a share will be distributed to shareholders.

Full story here

7am: Omega meeting

Omega, the specialist medical diagnostics company, will host a presentation for investors ahead of the general meeting of the company on 7 March.

Dr Simon Douglas (Chairman), Jag Grewal (CEO) and Chris Lea (CFO) will update on the company’s recently announced conditional sale of its Alva facility and new strategic focus, and also on the possible consequences for the group if the proposed placing and open offer by the company is not approved.

The presentation will be provided via the Investor Meet Company platform on Thursday 24 February at 4:30pm.

The presentation is open to all existing and potential shareholders. Questions can be submitted up until 9am the day before the meeting or at any time during the live presentation.

7am: AssetCo soars

Martin Gilbert’s AssetCo posted a surge in annual profit before tax to £16.1 million to the end of September (2020: £3.4 million) following a year of asset purchases. The shares have also quadrupled.

Mr Gilbert, chairman, said: “The company is being transformed and has successfully put in place some of the building blocks required for it to become a 21st century asset and wealth management business that delivers for investors and makes a difference. We will look to develop these businesses and explore other opportunities.” 

Full story here

Global markets

Despite ongoing geo-political tensions and big falls in the US, the FTSE 100 was expected to open positively.

US futures fell sharply before closing off their lows after the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed to a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov , raising hopes of a solution to the standoff over Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 1.78%, the S&P 500 lost 2.12% and the Nasdaq Composite was the worst hit, off 2.88%.

However, futures markets were positive.The S&P 500 futures jumped 0.7%, Nasdaq futures gained 0.8% and FTSE futures were 0.4% higher following news of the meeting which also eased selling pressure in Asia, although all major markets were lower. 

“It’s better news than what we had yesterday,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne. “But we’ve seen diplomatic talks go nowhere before, and the troops are still on the border, so risks remain.”

Diplomatic efforts will continue today when US president Joe Biden hosts a call with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Britain, the European Union and NATO.

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