London pre-open: Stocks to nudge higher ahead of BoE announcement
(ShareCast News) - London stocks were set to nudge just a touch higher at the open on Thursday as investors eyed the latest policy announcement from the Bank of England.
The FTSE 100 was expected to open six points higher at 7,385.
The BoE interest rate decision is at 1200 BST.
Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said: "While a rate hike at the meeting is very unlikely, central banks have surprised us in the past and given how other central banks (ECB, Bank of Canada) are exploring tighter monetary policy, it remains a possibility, albeit a small one I would say.
"What traders are most interested in is what impact the August inflation number had on those policy makers that have been borderline hike voters but remained with the majority until now. There is also one new policy maker on the committee this month - Sir David Ramsden - and another that only joined in July - Silvana Tenreyro - whose views we still know little about.
"It may not take as much as we thought to sway the vote in favour of a rate hike, at which point I would expect to see a sharp move higher in the pound, as that is not priced in.
"What's more likely is the voting will either be unchanged - with only McCafferty and Saunders voting for a hike - or perhaps one more policy maker will join them. This may even be enough to provide some upside for the pound in the near term."
On the corporate front, Next had a torrid start to the year and, while it reported a 10% decline in first-half profits, an upturn in recent months has led clothing retailer to lift sales and profits targets for the full year.
On total sales down 2.2% to £1.9bn in the six months to July, operating profits fell 9.8% to £352.2m and profit before tax shrank 9.5% to £309.4m.
A 4.8% increase in sales to £8.42bn for the 26 weeks to 30 July drove a 12.7% rise in underlying profits before tax at Morrisons to reach £177m. In parallel, reported profits before tax were higher by 39.9% to £200m.
However, free cash flows slipped to £352m from £558m over the prior period, although net debt did reduce further, by £262m to £932m - to stand below its year-end target. Excluding fuel and VAT, on a like-for-like basis sales growth accelerated from 1.4% to 3.0%. The half-year payout was up by 5.1% to 1.66p.
AstraZeneca has entered into an agreement with Aspen Global Incorporated - part of the Aspen Group - under which AGI will now acquire the residual rights to the established anaesthetic medicines Diprivan, EMLA, Xylocaine/Xylocard/Xyloproct, Marcaine, Naropin, Carbocaine and Citanest, it announced on Thursday.
The FTSE 100 drugmaker had already entered into an agreement with AGI in June 2016, under which AGI gained the exclusive commercialisation rights to the medicines in markets outside the US.
Under the terms of the new agreement, AGI will now acquire the remaining rights to the intellectual property and manufacturing know-how related to the anaesthetic medicines for an upfront consideration of $555m.