FTSE starts lower despite strong US earnings and Chinese stimulus

Stocks in London stumbled at the opening bell today, despite a robust performance by markets in New York and Asia, following strong US corporate earnings and a significant stimulus package from the Chinese government.

The FTSE 100 index dipped by 0.1%, down 10.39 points at 7,379.31. Similarly, the FTSE 250 saw a decline of 0.8%, losing 129.55 points at 16,864.55, and the AIM All-Share dropped 0.5%, down 3.30 points at 675.15.

In the FTSE 100, Lloyds Banking Group posted a 0.6% loss. Their third-quarter 2023 results revealed a 0.7% year-on-year increase in net income to £4.51 billion, slightly below the company’s consensus of £4.56 billion. Net interest income, though up 1.5% at £3.44 billion, also fell short of expectations at £3.45 billion. However, pre-tax profit surged to £1.86 billion from £576 million, surpassing the consensus of £1.82 billion.

Lloyds’ reassuring numbers followed mixed results from Barclays on Tuesday, which had cut its UK net interest margin guidance, sparking concerns about a similar outcome at Lloyds and NatWest, set to report on Friday. Barclays and NatWest opened down by 0.9% and 1.0%, respectively.

Consumer goods firm Reckitt Benckiser faced a 2.2% drop in its stock price. The company reported a 3.4% rise in like-for-like revenue for the third quarter of 2023 to £3.60 billion, driven by growth in its Hygiene and Health divisions but offset by a 12% fall in its Nutrition arm. CEO Kris Licht revealed a strategic update, emphasizing the need for product superiority, consistent market execution, and cost optimization. Reckitt also announced a £1 billion share buyback program commencing imminently and extending over the next 12 months.

In the FTSE 250, Essentra saw a 10% decline. The Oxford-based components company reported a ‘resilient’ performance for the third quarter of 2023, with a 7.1% decline in revenue on a like-for-like and trading day adjusted basis compared to the previous year. Amid the softer trading environment, Essentra expects to achieve adjusted operating profit within its 2023 expectations, albeit toward the lower end.

Ibstock lost 3.1%, even though it maintained its own guidance. The clay and concrete building products firm reported a ‘resilient’ third-quarter performance but noted that market demand was more subdued than anticipated. Consequently, sales volumes in the third quarter fell below those achieved in the second quarter of the year.