FTSE 100 Live: Mike Ashley resigns, central banks in the picture

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Asia-focused stocks rise FTSE 100, Futures fall 14%

The FTSE 100 index is 4.32 points higher at 7241, after an initial improvement of 1%. Asian-focused stocks offered some support after Hong Kong announced plans to overhaul its Covid quarantine policy and more major Chinese cities exited lockdowns.

Insurer Prudential, whose recent turn to Asian markets has been hampered by the region’s pandemic restrictions, topped the FTSE 100 risers board with gains of 2% or 19.4p to 977p and Burberry improved 15p to 1739p.

Higher oil prices on the back of expectations of increased demand in China pushed BP and Shell shares up 2%.

In the FTSE 250 index, shares of magazine publisher Future fell 14% in its first session since Sky News reported chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne plans to step down next year.

She took charge of Future in April 2014, when it was worth £30 million, before a series of takeovers recently involving rival publisher Dennis and the parent company of comparison website Go Compare.

Rapid expansion in the United States also helped shares peak at 3940p in late 2021, with Byng-Thorne named CEO of the Year in the March PLC Awards. FourFourTwo and Country Life publishers have since fallen to 1,430p at a valuation of £2bn, including today’s drop of 227p following unconfirmed exit speculation.

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Future was joined at the top of the FTSE 250 faller board by greeting card company Moonpig, although the AGM update reiterated the expectation for full-year revenues roughly double the level reached three years ago.

Shares fell 11% or 22.5 pence to 117.5 pence as the second tier of London underperformed again, falling 1% or 205.43 points to 18,591.71.

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Kingfisher shares hit by consumer uncertainty

THE DIY boom that started during the lockdown may have slowed down, but it’s certainly not over, Kingfisher insisted today.

The Anglo-France business behind B&Q and Screwfix has seen a shift towards DIFM – Do it For Me – now that the pandemic is largely over.

But chief executive Thierry Garnier says sales in the first half of the year were 16.6% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

He said: “This was driven by the expansion of market share gains in all of our key markets, driven by the successful execution of our strategy, and resilient sales from both DIY and retail customers. We are now back at the level of for the pandemic in terms of product availability in-store and maintaining competitive prices on all our banners.”

Profits fell by 30% to £474 million.

Richard Hunter, Head of Markets at interactive investor, said: “Kingfisher is swimming against a strong tide of difficult comparatives and deteriorating economic outlook, although longer term progress is still being made.

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The dividend is unchanged at 3.8 pence, but there is a share buyback program in place that should increase shareholder value.

There wasn’t much of that today – the stock fell 5% to 235p. It has fallen by 36% in a year.

The company says it will “stay vigilant against the most uncertain economic outlook for the second half”

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FTSE 100 up 1% but Kingfisher 3% down

A stronger-than-expected session for London’s top flight included a 3% gain for British Airways owner IAG as the FTSE 100 index rose 1% or 75.26 points to 7311.94.

Shares in another widely held stock, Asia-focused insurer Prudential, rose 2% after Hong Kong announced measures to change its Covid quarantine policy.

Other stocks on the risers board included Haleon, a consumer health company, after early interim results showed double-digit revenue growth and no change in its full-year outlook.

Shares have fallen from 330p since the company’s July split from GSK, but were up 5.8p today at 265.2p.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was down 3% or 7.5p at 239.8p after announcing that pre-tax profits were down 30% in the first half, a performance in line with expectations.

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The FTSE 250 index rose 0.2% or 37.29 points to 18,834.43.

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FTSE 100 higher after Wall Street rally

Wall Street’s belated recovery last night marked a positive start for European markets ahead of a busy few days of central bank decision making.

US benchmarks recovered from an uncertain start to close at around 0.7%, meaning the FTSE 100 index opened 54.22 points higher at 7290.

On Friday, London’s top flight fell 0.6% and the FTSE 250 index 0.5% as a difficult week ended with data showing a larger-than-expected drop in retail sales in August.

Sterling fell to its lowest point against the dollar since 1985 at $1.14, a move that also reflected expectations for another rate hike of at least 0.75% by the US Federal Reserve when its monetary policy meeting closes tomorrow.

The Bank of England will follow with its decision on Thursday, when policymakers are likely to raise key interest rates by another 0.5% to 2.25%. Decisions from central banks in Japan and Switzerland will also follow this week.

The minutes of the most recent meeting of the Reserve Bank of Australia were published this morning and included a line that members “viewed the argument for a slower pace of interest rate hikes to be stronger”.

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