The FTSE 100 got a boost from better than expected UK retail sales figures and positive European data. The UK’s blue chip index stood at 5,765 at midday, up 21 points (0.35 percent) from Thursday’s close.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today the retail sales volumes in the UK rose 1.8 percent in March following a 0.8 percent drop in the previous month, taking the quarterly gain to 0.8 percent.
“While the pick-up in retail sales is encouraging, growth could be weighed down by a sharp drop in construction output,” said analyst at forex.com Kathleen Brooks.
“Added to that, the correlation between retail sales data and the measure of consumption in the national accounts (which feeds into GDP) is not actually that strong.
“Various consumption based indicators including consumer confidence data, new car registrations and the BRC sales survey have all picked up recently, which suggests an improvement in consumption after a dismal start to the year.”
Likewise, today’s German business confidence was bullish, showing the six monthly gain in a row.
The Ifo institute reported that its business climate index climbed to 109.9 this month from 109.8 in March, whilea Bloomberg News survey forecast a decline to 109.5.
However, the positive impact from the strong UK and German data was partly offset by another surge in Spain’s borrowing costs.
The euro zone’s fourth largest economy saw yields on its ten year notes rise to near the psychologically significant six percent level, adding to concerns that Spain may become the next country to request an international bailout package.
Hedge fund manager Man Group (LON:EMG, up 3pct at 96.2p) topped the leaderboard after Bank of America Merrill Lynch repeated its ‘buy’ recommendation on the stock.
Financial firms Hargreaves Lansdown (LON:HL., up 2.9pct at 523.5p) and Schroders (LON:SDR, up 1.7pct at 1,470p) also made the leaderboard, as did part-nationalised bank Lloyds (LON:LLOY, up 2.9pct at 30.14p), lifted by a bullish note from Investec.
Investors also bought water groups Severn Trent (LON:SVT, up 2.6pct at 1,702p) and United Utilities (LON:UU., up 2.1pct at 618p).
Meanwhile, demand for miners including Kazakhmys (LON:KAZ, up 1.7pct at 883p) was lifted by an increase in base metal prices.
Pump maker Weir Group (LON:WEIR, down 2.7pct at 1,704p) was the heaviest faller in the top flight after industrial compressors and pumps manufacturer Gardner Denver (NYSE:GDI) said its full year earnings will undershoot forecasts.
Other notable fallers in the FTSE 100 included chipmaker ARM Holdings (LON:ARM, down 2.6pct at 591.5p) and broadcaster ITV (LON:ITV, down 2pct at 86.3p).