British shares were flat on Wednesday, with gains for Standard Chartered and other companies that reported well-received earnings updates helping to offset a pullback in healthcare stocks. The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.1 percent by 0917 GMT, broadly in line with other European bourses, as some analysts voiced concerns over the outlook for consumer confidence.
Standard Chartered was among the biggest gainers, rising 4.2 percent after its quarterly profit nearly doubled from a year ago as the bank brought loan losses under control. “Today’s results are likely to keep bulls interested, but we remain cautious on the revenue outlook,” Jefferies analysts said.
The emerging markets-focused bank is in the midst of an overhaul under Chief Executive Bill Winters that has shed 15,000 jobs and closed its stock-trading arm. Fellow lenders Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland, meanwhile, were both in negative territory, dropping 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.
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Among those boosted by earnings statements was chemicals company Croda, which rose 4.6 percent to a record high, and building materials company CRH, the London-listed shares of which were up 1.4 percent. LSE shares advanced by 1 percent to a record high after reporting a rise in quarterly income as its clearing and FTSE Russell index-compiling operations grew strongly.
The company said it was exploring investments to drive growth after the collapse of its proposed Deutsche Boerse merger. “UK earnings are coming in pretty strong. Today’s figures all point to rising sales and profits. Croda was good, CRH solid … But we are seeing a worry around consumer spending falling away as we head into the second half of the year, and this may hit earnings,” said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.
Wilson said that, in contrast, consumer confidence in continental Europe appears to be growing, raising the prospect of “a big rotation into European equities” as political risks subside. Pharma stocks were the biggest drag on the FTSE, pulling back from the previous session’s gains on the back of fresh dealmaking activity in Europe.
Heavyweight drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline fell 0.8 percent, while Shire dropped 0.9 percent. A big faller among blue-chips was GKN, down 1.5 percent, after the engineer warned that the encouraging growth rate achieved to date may not last.
By Danilo Masoni (Editing by David Goodman)