Market report

Builders surge | China boosts Pru | Direct Line CEO


A loosening of environmental rules by the UK Government on housing removed one important supply constraint and saw house builders lead the stock market higher.

Shares in the sector surged despite data from Zoopla that UK house sales this year are ‘on track to be lowest since 2012’.

The number of home sales taking place across the UK this year is on track to be around a fifth, 21%, lower than in 2022, according to the property website.

After surging 5.3% higher on Tuesday, Persimmon was among those at the top of London’s leaderboard, climbing a further 23.5p, or 2.3%, to close at 1062.5p.

Even so, that wasn’t enough to prevent its ejection from the FTSE 100 in the quarterly index reshuffle.

The meltdown in air traffic control systems hit airline shares. International Consolidated Airlines Group, British Airways’ parent, descended 2p, or 1.2% to 161.25p, while Jet2, the budget carrier, lost 26p, or 2.4% to 1049p.

The blue chip index managed a rise of 8.68 points, or 0.1%, to sit at a two-week high of 7,473.67.


Prudential CEO Anil Wadhwani plans to raise new business profit to as much as $5.4bn (£4.3bn) by 2027, more than double last year’s $2.2bn, equivalent to a 20% annual growth rate. 

The insurer reported a 36% jump in new business profit from its insurance operation in the first half of this year, on an actual exchange rate basis, helped by the post-pandemic recovery of mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong.  

Direct Line CEO

Direct Line has lured Adam Winslow from Aviva to take over as chief executive, replacing Penny James who stood down after a profit warning and scrapping its dividend.

Mr Winslow will begin at the company in the first quarter of next year, taking over from Jon Greenwood, who has been acting chief executive since January.

Mr Winslow, who will receive an annual salary of £820,000 and a pension allowance of 9%of salary, has led Aviva’s UK and Ireland general insurance business since May 2021 and was previously the boss of Global Life at AIG Life and Retirement, now Corebridge.

Global markets

The number of job vacancies in the US economy fell more than expected in July, raising the chances of a halt to interest rate rises.

Official job openings data showed 8.8 million vacancies last month, down from 9.1m in June. The July figure was lower than the 9.5 million forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg.

June’s reading was also revised down by 400,000, suggesting that the American labour market is in the grip of a gradual slowdown as businesses reduce their hiring needs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 0.9% higher, while the broad-based S&P 500 climbed 1.5% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index surged 1.7%.

Consumer confidence in Germany fell more than expected in August, adding to fears that Europe’s largest economy will slip back into recession this year.

Official growth figures for the second quarter showed the German economy was stagnant in the three months to June, after output had contracted at the start of the year.

The country met the threshold for a technical recession after posting two consecutive quarters of economic contraction in the fourth quarter of last year and first quarter of 2023.

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