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London pre-open: Stocks seen up as investors mull GDP data

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were set to rise at the open on Friday as investors mulled the latest UK GDP data and eyed the start of US earnings season. The FTSE 100 was called to open around 30 points higher.

Data released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed the UK economy grew 0.1% in February following 0.3% growth the month before, raising hopes the recession is over.

January's growth was revised up from a previous estimate of 0.2%.

Liz McKeown, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: "The economy grew slightly in February with widespread growth across manufacturing, particularly in the car sector. Services also grew a little with public transport and haulage, and telecommunications having strong months.

"Partially offsetting this there were notable falls across construction as the wet weather hampered many building projects.

"Looking across the last three months as a whole, the economy grew for the first time since last summer."

In corporate news, Petrofac updated the market on its ongoing negotiations concerning its finances, reporting that it was still in discussions with lenders to restructure debt, considering exchanging a significant portion for equity.

It said talks were underway with potential investors and major shareholders for further investment, while negotiations regarding the sale of non-core assets also persisted.

The company said it was focussed on meeting payment obligations, supporting recent contract awards, and ensuring Petrofac's capital structure aligned with its substantial backlog of $8bn.

UK equity investment firm Mercantile Investment Trust said it managed to grow returns in the year to 31 January despite "a generally unsupportive environment".

The company's net asset total return based on debt at par value was 4.5% and the total return to shareholders was 6.1%, under the ten-year averages of 6.1% and 6.4% respectively. Chair Angus Gordon Lennox said most of the company's portfolio holdings performed well.

"Existing portfolio holdings have been performing well despite the challenging conditions of the past year and should do even better as and when the economy strengthens," he said.

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