Lloyds and Glencore send FTSE 100 swinging out of the red
The FTSE 100 Index closed up 34.8 points to 7,281.57.
London’s top-flight index swung back into positive territory on Wednesday as investors cheered strong updates from Lloyds Banking Group and the mining giant Glencore.
The FTSE 100 Index closed up 34.8 points to 7,281.57, marking a u-turn on the previous session when traders baulked at disappointing results from HSBC and BHP Billiton.
Glencore was the biggest riser, up 20.2p to 404.6p, as it unveiled a hefty jump in its annual dividend to 20 US cents, up from seven cents the year in 2016.
It came as the London-listed group saw pre-tax profits soar to $6.9 billion (£4.9 billion) for 2017 compared to a $549 million (£393 million) loss the year before.
Lloyds was also in the ascendancy, rising close to 3% or 1.9p to 69.7p, after delivering a £3.2 billion bumper payout to investors and reporting a record annual profits haul.
Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio hailed a “landmark year” as the bank saw bottom line profits surge 24% to £5.3 billion in 2017 and unveiled plans to invest more than £3 billion as part of a new three-year strategy.
On an underlying basis, profits rose 8% to £8.5 billion.
Across Europe, Germany’s Dax drifted 0.1% lower, while the Cac 40 in France lifted by 0.2%.
On the currency markets, sterling endured a choppy session in response to the strengthening US dollar, but managed to pare losses against the greenback after Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane indicated that interest rates may have to rise faster than the Bank had predicted.
Speaking to MPs on the powerful Treasury Select Committee, Mr Haldane said: “I think there is the potential for greater than expected momentum in both global and UK growth and inflation.
“In my view, this would put the balance of risks to the path of interest rates necessary to return inflation sustainably to target to the upside.”
The pound was 0.3% lower against the US dollar at 1.39. Versus the euro, it fell 0.2% at 1.13.
The price of oil eked out a 0.4% rise to $65.29 despite concerns that record US output was exacerbating the global supply glut.
Returning to UK stocks, the AA saw its share price crash by 28% after the breakdown recovery specialist warned over profits and reined in shareholder payouts.
The group, which also provides car insurance, was down 32.7p to 83.6p after it said increased spending would knock underlying earnings for 2019, now expected to come in between £335 million and £345 million.
That would mark a significant drop from 2018, when underlying earnings are forecast to come in at £390 million to £395 million.
The AA has also confirmed it will tighten its shareholder payouts, with dividends restricted to 2p a share per year.
It is a marked climbdown on its dividend of 9.3p per share issue in the last financial year.
Transport firm First Group was also experiencing a torrid time on the second tier, flagging to investors that the outlook for annual earnings per share was expected to be “slightly reduced”.
The bus-to-rail firm plunged 12%, off 11.7p to 84.4p, when it said its three US divisions had been confronted by “extremely challenging” weather in January and airline competition had “intensified”.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Glencore up 20.2p to 404.6p, Anglo American up 56.8p to 1,796.6p, Mediclinic International up 17p to 605p, Lloyds Banking Group up 1.9p to 69.7p.
The biggest fallers were Shire down 80.5p to 2,992p, WPP down 20.5p to 1,379.5p, British Land Company down 8.6p to 639p, Evraz down 5.1p to 427.6p.