26th April 2013
The UK market welcomed the news that it had narrowly side-stepped falling into a so called-triple-dip recession this week when data revealed the nation’s economy delivered 0.3% GDP growth in the first three months of the year writes Philip Scott. Chancellor George Osborne, who a few days earlier had the IMF suggesting he might need to ease up on his austerity measures, declared this limited progress as evidence that the coalition’s strategies are helping to “build an economy fit for the future”.
The market took the news in its stride as the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s largest firms, finished the week 2% higher at 6426.42.
The Lloyds / Co-op deal, which was a year in the making, fell through as the former’s chief executive António Horta-Osório was informed on Tuesday evening by departing Co-op boss, Peter Marks, that the group was pulling out of the deal. The deal dubbed Operation Verde would have seen the mutual purchase more than 600 Lloyds branches. Co-op cited the current economic environment as the reason behind its decision to pull-out. In a statement it said: “After detailed and thorough consideration of all aspects of the Verde transaction, we have decided, at this time, that it is not in the best interests of our members to proceed with the transaction.”
The decision didn’t drag on Lloyds Banking Group’s share price, which rose over the week by 11% to 52.91p. Elsewhere in the financial sector, Barclays revealed to the market on Wednesday that first quarter profits had dropped by some 25% to £1.8bn. The fall was chiefly attributed to a rise in losses in its European business and a substantial levy for its new restructuring plan. Over the week its share price has crept up by 2% to 290.7p. Its high street competitor HSBC managed a 3% rise at 699.9p, while Royal Bank of Scotland enjoyed a 5% jump to 295.1p and Standard Chartered rose 2% to 387.3p.
Insurer Standard Life was the top flight index’s biggest riser over the week, firming 16% to 387.3p following its expectation-surpassing trading update, when it reported assets under administration were up 7% to just over £233bn. Competitor Prudential, who hired Standard Life’s chief financial officer Jackie Hunt to run its UK and Europe business saw its shares rise 8% to 1120p.
Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca dropped back over the trading week after it reported first quarter profits were down 36% from the same period last year. The fall followed its loss of exclusivity on a number of products, its shares fell 1% over the week 3321p.
Commodity prices lifted over the week with Randgold Resources up 12% to 5220p. It was recently reported the firm had come to a deal with Goldstone Resources which handed it control over the Sangola project in Senegal, while Vedanta Resources climbed 6% to 1221p. But Eurasian Natural Resources was the Footsie’s steepest faller following the news that the Serious Fraud Office had launched a criminal investigation into the mining firm which has been beleaguered with allegations of corruption and shares loosened 7% to 269.3p.
Between the supermarket giants Morrison was up 2% to 286.3p, Tesco firmed 1% to 366.95p and Sainsbury’s 1p to 382.8p. High street retailer Marks & Spencer rose 4% to 415.3p.