FTSE 100 supported by Standard Chartered and AstraZeneca
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FTSE 100 supported by Standard Chartered and AstraZeneca

Jan 10, 2024

On Friday, earnings updates from a raft of FTSE 100 companies dominated trade as investors shrugged off this week’s rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and ECB. A shift in policy by the Bank of Japan did little to upset UK stocks despite volatility overnight.

The FTSE 100 was dead flat at 7,693 at the time of writing on Friday, having given up early gains.

“Another week, another round of interest rate hikes. Under the circumstances, markets have held up remarkably well. As the trading week draws to a close, European stocks are doing their best to stay firm,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Investors were digesting the latest earnings updates from Standard Chartered, AstraZeneca and Natwest on Friday. All three companies were trading in positive territory at the time of writing.

“Standard Chartered jumped to the top of the FTSE 100 leader board after lifting its profit guidance and announcing a $1 billion share buyback. Its 5% share price gain was in stark contrast to the negative market reaction this week to other London-listed banks, with shares in Lloyds and Barclays both falling on their results,” said Russ Mould.

“AstraZeneca was in-demand after second quarter results beat estimates. That helped to breath some life back into its share price which had previously found it hard to break out this year.”

AstraZeneca shares were 4% higher shortly after 1pm on Friday.

Natwest was the last of the three UK-focused FTSE 100 banks to report this week. There has been little to separate Natwest, Lloyds, and Barclays in terms of their outlook; all three expect their key profitability metric, Net Interest Margin, to fall in the second half.

Natwest did, however, please investors with better than expected operating profit which helped shares 3% higher on Friday. Barclays and Lloyds shares both fell after their updates. As one would expect, Natwest’s earnings call was dominated by further questions about the Farage saga, which led to CEO Alison Rose’s departure.

“It’s been a week to forget at NatWest as it’s had to lose two of its top execs because of the Nigel Farage account closure debacle. Today’s results probably don’t do the group any favours either, despite a slight beat on the bottom line,” said Matt Britzman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“We know markets are laser-focused on net interest margin and at 3.13% for the second quarter that was below expectations, leading to a miss on net interest income. But perhaps more importantly, full-year guidance has been dragged lower reflecting the ongoing deposit shift to accounts that offer better rates as consumers do all they can to make cash savings go further.”

Strength in Standard Chartered, AstraZeneca and Natwest was evened out by weakness in the FTSE 100’s commodity companies as optimism around possible Chinese stimulus faded.

Miners Anglo American and Rio Tinto were among the loser, as were Shell and BP.

Aviva was down 2.6% after being downgraded to market perform by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts. Admiral Group was the top faller shedding 2.9%.

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