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London midday: Stocks edge up in quiet trade; Currys surges

(Sharecast News) - London stocks had edged up by midday on Monday, reversing earlier small losses, as Currys rocketed amid takeover interest. The FTSE 100 was up 0.2% at 7,724.16, with trade expected to remain quieter than usual as US markets will be closed for Presidents' Day.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the top-flight index was "lacking some direction amid the absence of big corporate or economic releases".

"That changes later in the week when the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting are released and the AI stock Nvidia unveils its latest quarterly results. There is little margin for error for the chip specialist given the supercharged surge in its share price which has continued into 2024," he said.

"Nvidia's weight in the market and ties to the dominant theme has driven equities over the last year or so, which means whatever it comes out with will have wider ramifications for investors.

"While the latest property price data from Rightmove is encouraging, UK households are still heavily incentivised to make savings where they can and that is driving strong demand for comparison site Moneysupermarket - particularly in the insurance realm. That the company is beating expectations without a widespread return of energy switching is a sign the business is in a healthy place."

On the macro front, data out earlier showed that house prices strengthened in February as mortgage rates continued to fall.

According to Rightmove's latest house price index, average new seller prices rose by 0.9% on the month, or 0.1% year-on-year.

It is the first time the annual price change has edged into positive territory after six months of falls.

In January, prices rose 1.3% on the month but fell 0.7% year-on-year.

The average asking price is now £362,839.

Agreed sales in the first six weeks of 2024 jumped 16% on the same period a year earlier. There were also upticks in new listings and buyer enquiries, both up 7% year-on-year.

Tim Bannister, director of property science at Rightmove, said: "Early-bird Boxing Day buyers got a head start in cherry-picking from a record level of new property choice and have now been joined many other buyers also believing that 2024 offers the right market conditions to move.

"Mortgage rates have fallen considerably from their peak and are now remaining broadly stable after the uncertainty of late 2022 and 2023.

"Momentum to move in 2024 is continuing to build."

However, Rightmove noted that the market remained particularly price-sensitive, with cheaper homes selling more quickly than higher-priced properties.

On average it is taking more than two weeks longer to find a buyer than it was this time last year. Stripping out the pandemic, the average time to sell is its slowest since 2015.

The Bank of England increased the cost of borrowing 14 times as it looked to tackle surging inflation, to 5.25%.

However, it has left rates unchanged since August and most analysts agree the next move will be a cut.

Mortgage rates, meanwhile, soared in response to the government's disastrous mini Budget in 2022. But they have started to moderate in recent months.

In equity markets, Currys surged to the top of the FTSE 250 after US private equity firm Elliott Advisors and Chinese ecommerce giant confirmed they were considering separate bids for the struggling British electrical retailer. Currys said it had rejected a £700m proposal from Elliott as it "significantly undervalued" the chain and its future prospects.

AstraZeneca rallied after the US Food and Drug Administration approved a combination of its cancer drug Tagrisso with chemotherapy to treat a type of lung cancer.

SSE was boosted by an upgrade to 'buy' at Jefferies, while Bank of Georgia rose as it agreed to buy Armenian bank Ameriabank for around $303.6m.

Moneysupermarket lost ground even as it hailed record full-year revenues following a strong performance from its insurance business.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,724.16 0.16% FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,153.33 -0.20% techMARK (TASX) 4,389.50 0.16%

FTSE 100 - Risers

AstraZeneca (AZN) 10,422.00p 3.25% Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 330.70p 2.29% Vodafone Group (VOD) 67.00p 2.09% SSE (SSE) 1,617.00p 1.35% SEGRO (SGRO) 860.40p 1.30% Barclays (BARC) 148.34p 1.10% Melrose Industries (MRO) 617.20p 1.05% Standard Chartered (STAN) 600.80p 1.04% InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 7,836.00p 0.98% Whitbread (WTB) 3,510.00p 0.80%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Centrica (CNA) 134.00p -3.67% Rentokil Initial (RTO) 416.80p -2.57% Ocado Group (OCDO) 522.40p -2.54% Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 793.20p -1.86% Kingfisher (KGF) 223.50p -1.80% Fresnillo (FRES) 479.50p -1.64% Rio Tinto (RIO) 5,431.00p -1.52% Flutter Entertainment (DI) (FLTR) 16,835.00p -1.46% Admiral Group (ADM) 2,552.00p -1.43% Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,319.50p -1.42%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Currys (CURY) 63.75p 35.41% Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 4,185.00p 5.55% Capital Gearing Trust (CGT) 4,630.00p 2.09% 4Imprint Group (FOUR) 5,680.00p 1.61% Games Workshop Group (GAW) 9,830.00p 1.50% Senior (SNR) 159.80p 1.27% Mobico Group (MCG) 83.90p 1.21% Ibstock (IBST) 162.00p 1.19% NB Private Equity Partners Ltd. (NBPE) 1,568.00p 1.16% Inchcape (INCH) 664.00p 1.14%

FTSE 250 - Fallers Group (MONY) 242.60p -3.42% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 165.10p -2.65% FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 415.00p -2.47% Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 167.55p -2.02% Darktrace (DARK) 344.40p -1.96% Baltic Classifieds Group (BCG) 233.00p -1.89% RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 3,530.00p -1.84% Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 82.25p -1.79% Indivior (INDV) 1,379.00p -1.78% The Global Smaller Companies Trust (GSCT) 145.00p -1.76%

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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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