FTSE Today: Stocks dip as ECB cautions against premature rate cuts

Stock prices in London ended the day lower on Thursday after European Central Bank President, Christine Lagarde, emphasised that discussions about interest rate cuts would be ‘totally premature.’ The FTSE 100 index closed down 0.8% at 7,354.57 points, while the FTSE 250 ended 0.5% lower at 16,783.09 points.

The ECB chose to maintain its key interest rates as expected, leaving the interest rate on main refinancing operations, marginal lending facility, and deposit facility at 4.50%, 4.75%, and 4.00% respectively. During a press conference in Athens, President Lagarde stated, ‘At this point in our fight against inflation, now is not the time for forward guidance. Now is the time to stick to our data-dependency, and we shall do so,’ emphasizing the importance of data-driven decisions.

In the FTSE 100. Standard Chartered saw a 12% decrease in its stock value despite a 4.5% rise in operating income to $4.52 billion. The drop in profit was attributed to increased credit impairments and charges related to the Chinese commercial real estate sector and its holding in China Bohai Bank.

Unilever also saw losses, shedding 2.8% of its value. The company announced changes in its division leadership and reported a slight decline in third-quarter revenue. Despite this, underlying sales growth remained positive at 5.2%. Unilever affirmed its 2023 outlook, anticipating sales growth above 5% and a ‘modest’ improvement in underlying operating margin.

In the FTSE 250, Hunting sunk 8.1%. The oil and gas technology firm reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization of around $75 million in the year-to-date, doubling year-on-year. Despite a shrinking order book in the third quarter, recent developments have bolstered prospects.

Restaurant Group saw a 2.4% rise amid a takeover bid. The company confirmed a diligence request from Pizza Express owner Wheel Topco, which is evaluating a possible rival offer after Restaurant Group’s recent agreement to be bought by Apollo Global Management for just over £500 million.

On the small-cap end, Safestyle UK plummeted by 80%. The retailer and manufacturer of PVCu replacement windows and doors stated it does not expect any capital injection or new financing, leaving its future uncertain.