FTSE Today: FTSE ends higher ahead of FOMC

The FTSE 100 ended the day marginally higher as investors prepared for the highly anticipated decision by the US Federal Reserve. The market is expecting the central bank to maintain the current interest rates despite robust economic data. The CME FedWatch Tool indicates a 98% likelihood that the federal funds rate range would remain steady at 5.25% to 5.50%.

In the FTSE 100, fashion retailer Next enjoyed a boost, climbing 4.4% after revising its annual profit guidance upwards to £885 million. The company’s steady performance was underpinned by a 4.0% sales growth in the third quarter, surpassing initial estimates by £23 million. Online sales, showing an uptick of 6.5%, contributed significantly to Next’s success. This positive news resonated across the retail sector, with Marks & Spencer gaining 3.6% and AB Foods, the owner of Primark, rising by 2.1%.

Pharmaceutical giant GSK saw a 2.2% decline despite reporting increased profits and revenue. The company credited the outstanding US launch of Arexvy, the world’s first approved respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, for its competitive performance. GSK’s shingles vaccine, Shingrix, also performed well, with sales rising by 8.6% to £825 million.

Meanwhile, Croda, a chemical ingredient supplier to Estee Lauder and other cosmetics brands, faced challenges as Estee Lauder reduced its profit outlook due to slow growth in Asia and disruptions from the Israel-Hamas conflict. Croda had previously lowered its profit guidance owing to declining demand, particularly in its North American beauty care business.

In the FTSE 250, luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin saw an 11% drop in its shares after reducing its 2023 vehicle production guidance by approximately 4%. The company attributed this decrease to supplier issues and the integration of a new infotainment system, causing a slowdown in the production of its DB12 model.

n AIM, financial technology company Equals Group jumped 11% following an announcement that it was exploring strategic options. The company revealed that it had engaged with potential counterparties to evaluate proposals that could offer enhanced value to its shareholders, including a potential acquisition of the entire issued and to be issued share capital of the company.

FTSE-All-Share listed fashion retailer ASOS shares plunged 11% as annual loss widened on revenue drop. The company said it is making progress in its turnaround efforts but it will not be enough to arrest declining revenues in its current financial year.