Market report

Rice leaves Sainsbury’s | Hays’ new record | ECB rates verdict


5pm: US banks and Twitter grip markets

European equities were buoyed by a dovish European Central Bank, while Wall Street was focused on bank earnings and by Tesla boss Elon Musk’s hostile move to social media platform Twitter, whose shares were up 1.1% at the time of the European equities close.

The European Central Bank kept rates on hold as expected amid pressure to begin monetary tightening as a result of rising inflation across the Euro Area. It confirmed plans to end its asset purchase programme in the third quarter.

Andrew Pottie, senior portfolio manager at Titan Asset Management, said: “The ECB is prioritising growth over curtailing inflation.

“The Euro has been testing post-Brexit lows relative to Sterling and the continued interest rate differential will not do much to help this.”

The FTSE 100 index ended the session 35.58 points higher at 7,616.38 going into the holiday weekend.

Broadcaster ITV was among the worst performers on the index as it traded without entitlement to the dividend.

Expectations of a busy summer holiday season saw travel-related shares higher, with InterContinental Hotels, BA owner IAG, Premier Inn owner Whitbread, Upper Crust owner SSP and easyJet all up.

7am: Rice leaves Sainsbury’s

Susan Rice

Dame Susan Rice will step down from the board of Sainsbury’s at the AGM on 7 July after nine years’ service.

The board has appointed Brian Cassin, who has been on the board since April 2016, to succeed Dame Susan as senior independent director.

Chairman Martin Scicluna said: “I would like to thank Susan for her commitment and dedication to Sainsbury’s. Throughout her time with us she has been steadfast in doing the right thing for our customers and colleagues.

“As chair of the remuneration committee Susan has played a vital role in ensuring our approach to pay reflects our culture and values at all levels of the organisation. She has been a great support to me and I wish her all the very best in her future endeavours.”

7am: Hays posts record growth

Recruitment firm Hays posted a record quarter, including 19 country records and a record fee month in March, with “excellent growth” in all regions.

Group fees were up 32%, permanent up 48% and temporary up 21%, helped by continued margin growth for the quarter ended 31 March.

UK & Ireland fees were up 29%, led by Perm up 59%, with Temp up 13%. The Private sector, up 40%, significantly outperformed the Public sector, up 9%.

Alistair Cox, Chief Executive, said: “Our Strategic Growth Initiatives in structural growth areas like Technology, Life Sciences and large enterprise clients continue to perform strongly and I am confident we will take further market share.”

Global markets

Christine Lagarde and the European Central Bank will be the focus of attention on the last trading day ahead of the Easter break.

Ms Lagarde will host a press conference amid rising discontent among EU countries over ECB inaction on inflation which has hit 15.2% in Estonia.

CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson accused the ECB of managing to “turn procrastination into an art form”.

He added: “At some point the ECB will have to bite the bullet and set out a timeline for a rate hike.”

An announcement was due at lunchtime ahead of the press conference.

Wall Street ended higher, reversing two subued sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 1.0%, the S&P 500 advanced 1.1% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.0%.

JP Morgan shares fell 3.2% after it kicked off the first-quarter earnings season for US banks with a drop in net income. It also saw revenue fall as its investment bank suffered from lower fees.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo was up 1.2%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was 1.2% higher, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was up 0.8%

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