A rally by risk-sensitive bamks and commodity stocks drove Britain's leading share index higher on Friday, as investors' risk appetite returned on the possibility of further stimulus measures by central banks to tackle the euro zone debt crisis.
G20 officials have told Reuters that top central banks are ready to step in if needed to stabilise global financial markets after Sunday's Greek re-run election.
Meanwhile, Britain's government and central bank said they will flood the banking system with more than 100 billion pounds ($155 billion), seeking to pump credit through an economy struggling to escape recession under the “black cloud” of the euro zone crisis.
Banks were strong gainers, led by part-state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland - up 6.5 percent - with the sector having recently underperformed significantly on concerns over its exposure to the euro zone crisis.
At 12:50 SA time, the FTSE 100 index was ahead 29.26 points, or 0.5 percent at 5,496.32, slipping back below the 5,500 level having hit an intra-session peak of 5,522.87.
“Right now we are faced with the uncomfortable combination of extremely oversold markets and a number of signals telling us it is right to panic. This leaves us poised for a rapid rebound if anything is done to restore confidence but vulnerable to accelerating downside if authorities remain on the sidelines. Politics will determine where we go next,” said Robert Farago, head of asset allocation at Schroders Private Banking.
Volume was very strong at more than 72 percent of the 90-day daily average, inflated by activity related to futures and options expiries in the morning.
Energy stocks and miners were the two top-performing blue chip sectors as investors' risk appetite returned on hopes for concerted action by central banks to prop up the euro zone, with commodity prices firmer on demand hopes.
“BLACK SKY” CLOUDY
Equity strategists at UBS have a gloomy worst-case scenario for the FTSE 100 index, but maintain their full-year target.
“A 'black sky' scenario could see the FTSE 100 back at 3,500 We continue to target the FTSE 100 at 5,800 by year-end, but under a 'black sky' break-up scenario the index could fall back to 3,500. This scenario is based on earnings down 20 percent (base case +7 percent) in 2013 derived from our economists' new negative scenarios on a distressed P/E multiple of 8.5 times (base case 10.5 times),” UBS said in a note.
Aggreko was the top blue chip faller, down 4.0 percent as the world's biggest temporary power provider's warning of slower second-quarter growth overshadows the company's outlook for the year.
“The group is usually cautious on guidance ahead of the key summer months, but the weak global economic backdrop (especially in Europe) complicates matters. The structural growth story remains intact and we keep a Buy,” on Aggreko, Investec Securities said in a note.
That weak economic backdrop was backed up by data showing Britain's goods trade deficit unexpectedly widened in April as exports to countries outside of the European Union fell sharply while imports dipped less.
A big batch of US data will be digested later. June's Empire State index will be released at 14:30 SA time, with May US industrial output and capital utilisation numbers due at 15:15 SA time, and the first reading for the Reuters/University of Michigan June consumer sentiment survey scheduled for 15:55 SA time.
Ahead of all that data, US stocks index futures and pointed to modest gains on Wall Street after a strong performance in the previous session.
“If it (the rally) lasts today I'd be surprised. So much really depends on what's going to happen on Sunday in Greece - that could give us a quite a different scenario,” said Donald Lynderid, senior market analyst at HB Markets. - Reuters