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London midday: FTSE maintains gains ahead of payrolls report

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were still firmer by midday on Friday as investors cheered well-received results from Meta and Amazon and looked ahead to the latest US non-farm payrolls report. The FTSE 100 was up 0.3% at 7,643.11.

Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "Meta has seen a remarkable share price jump, as it announced its first ever quarterly dividend and a hefty share buyback.

"The topping of estimates also came as a very welcome surprise - the advertising revenue landscape remains very lumpy and Meta's navigating this well. The potency of its offering is clear to see, with advertising impressions rising by a fifth, and price increases are tapering to more customer-friendly levels. The returning of cash to shareholders is a bold and well-regarded move.

"It was also a good night for Amazon, which took a gamble when it hired swathes of extra seasonal workers over Christmas. Retail margins have been squashed in the past when demand failed to show up following over-zealous capacity ramp ups. The world's largest retailer comfortably beat analyst expectations with quarterly revenue of $170bn. The record period shows there's still plenty of consumer strength rattling through economies, and Amazon will be hoping to capitalise on that through new AI shopping assistant tools."

On the macro front, investors eyed the payrolls report for January, which is due at 1330 GMT, along with the unemployment rate and average earnings.

CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: "Today's January payrolls report is expected to see 185k new jobs added, down from 216k in December while wages are expected to remain unchanged at 4.1%.

"The unemployment rate is expected to nudge higher to 3.8%, after last month's surprise slide to 3.7% although part of the reason for that was a sharp fall in the participation rate to 62.5% from 62.8%, which was a little unexpected. This could well get revised away with an expectation that this could see a tick back higher to 62.6%."

On home shores, industry data showed that retail footfall continued to fall in January as wet and windy weather put off potential bargain hunters.

According to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ footfall monitor, total UK footfall fell 2.8% in January, though that was a marginal improvement on December's 5% decline.

Within that footfall on high streets decreased by 2.3%, by 1.8% in retail parks and by 5% in shopping centres.

January normally sees shoppers seek bargains in the sales. However, the British Retail Consortium said increasingly bad weather had kept people at home.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive, said: "Many consumers appear particularly bargain-focused, with the first half of the month boosted by the January sales.

"However, the latter part of January saw fewer shoppers out as stormy weather led to a bigger footfall decline in shopping centres and high streets."

On high streets, footfall was up 5.6% in the first week and 1.5% in the second. It fell by 7.5% in the third week, however, and slumped 10% in the fourth.

In equity markets, BT Group gained as Citi reiterated its 'overweight' stance on the shares after Thursday's update.

Drinks giant Diageo fizzed higher amid a report it has kicked off the search for a new chairman as it grapples with a sharp slowdown in sales in key growth markets. According to Sky News, the company is working with Russell Reynolds Associates, the search firm, to identify a successor to Javier Ferran.

Budgets airlines Wizz Air and easyJet both flew higher as Barclays upgraded the shares to 'equalweight' from 'underweight' and to 'overweight' from 'equalweight', respectively. Wizz was also in focus after it reported a 14.2% rise in January passenger numbers but said the load factor fell due to the conflict in Gaza and an increase in one-way traffic.

BA and Iberia owner IAG also advanced.

Outside the FTSE 350, Superdry rocketed after Norwegian alternative investment fund First Seagull took a 5.3% stake in the fashion brand.

According to The Times, it is understood that First Seagull considers Superdry to be ripe for a bid after a series of profit warnings over the past year dented its share price. US private equity firm Sycamore Partners and Ted Baker owner Authentic Brands Group are said to have Superdry in their sights.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,643.11 0.27% FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,322.31 1.00% techMARK (TASX) 4,385.62 0.55%

FTSE 100 - Risers

BT Group (BT.A) 112.20p 2.94% Diageo (DGE) 2,988.50p 2.87% Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 274.40p 2.69% WPP (WPP) 789.00p 2.60% Entain (ENT) 1,007.50p 2.53% International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 149.15p 2.37% Barclays (BARC) 149.48p 2.36% Vodafone Group (VOD) 68.73p 2.17% Tesco (TSCO) 288.60p 2.01% Ashtead Group (AHT) 5,336.00p 1.68%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Mondi (MNDI) 1,373.50p -1.96% Fresnillo (FRES) 514.40p -1.46% BP (BP.) 459.50p -1.32% Rio Tinto (RIO) 5,428.00p -1.08% Glencore (GLEN) 421.60p -1.06% Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,262.00p -0.83% Pearson (PSON) 959.80p -0.83% Diploma (DPLM) 3,314.00p -0.78% Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,735.50p -0.77% Smurfit Kappa Group (CDI) (SKG) 2,858.00p -0.76%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,137.00p 7.71% Trustpilot Group (TRST) 177.60p 4.84% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 193.50p 4.09% Senior (SNR) 160.80p 3.61% Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 81.50p 3.56% Carnival (CCL) 1,204.50p 3.48% Indivior (INDV) 1,397.00p 3.40% easyJet (EZJ) 577.80p 3.40% Mobico Group (MCG) 88.00p 3.35% ICG Enterprise Trust (ICGT) 1,214.00p 3.06%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Close Brothers Group (CBG) 515.50p -2.27% Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited NPV (SONG) 66.00p -1.49% IntegraFin Holding (IHP) 281.20p -1.40% Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) 183.60p -1.29% W.A.G Payment Solutions (WPS) 84.20p -0.94% PZ Cussons (PZC) 129.00p -0.92% Ascential (ASCL) 298.80p -0.86% Ruffer Investment Company Ltd Red PTG Pref Shares (RICA) 263.50p -0.75% Baltic Classifieds Group (BCG) 243.00p -0.61% SThree (STEM) 412.50p -0.60%

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Important information: This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice. When you are thinking about investing in shares, it’s generally a good idea to consider holding them alongside other investments in a diversified portfolio of assets. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

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