UK stocks are expected to open flat this morning taking direction from Asian and US markets. Standard Life is due to post its full-year results this morning.
UK stocks fell due to oil and mining stocks with the FTSE down 1.0% despite positive news flow from other areas of the index. Shares in British Gas owner, Centrica, were the best performer, rising through the day to end up 7% after its drop in profit was smaller than expected. Shares in defence group BAE Systems rose 1.3% as the company forecast earnings growth of up to 10% in 2016.
US stocks also fell as oil prices stagnated while analysts said Wall Street’s fall was probably due to investors locking in some profits. Shares in Walmart fell 3% after the company cut its 2017 sales forecast, blaming the strong dollar and the impact of previously announced store closures. Chevron shares fell 1.8% and Valero Energy dropped 3.8% as the price of crude oil slid downwards.
Asian stocks ended the week up, although Friday’s performance was disappointing. The Nikkei remained 6.5% up, its best weekly performance since October 2014, when the Bank of Japan boosted the size of its asset-purchase programme.
The European Central Bank is on course for more aggressive monetary easing to boost flagging growth and weak inflation, amid fresh warnings about the outlook for the global economy. Mario Draghi, the ECB president, has won wide support for further policy action next month, according to minutes of the bank’s January policy meeting, released on Thursday.
David Cameron’s negotiations with fellow European Union leaders spilled into a second day as he pleaded for a deal on the UK’s membership of the bloc that he can sell to British voters. The prime minister encountered goodwill from his 27 EU counterparts in Brussels but also ran into resistance from eastern European states over demands for more welfare curbs on non-British citizens that took some participants by surprise.
HSBC is launching voice recognition and touch security services in the UK in a big leap towards the introduction of biometric banking. The bank says its internet banking customers will no longer have to remember a password or memorable places and dates to access accounts.