Market Report: Tubthumping boost for Standard Chartered
Wednesday 02 February 2011
The lyrics of Chumbawamba are not usually discussed in the City, but for one analyst the band – whose guitarist famously poured a bucket of water over John Prescott at the 1998 Brit Awards – provided a rather unusual source of inspiration yesterday.
In a note entitled "I get knocked down, but I get up again" – a line from the group's best-known tune, "Tubthumping" – Exane BNP Paribas' Ian Gordon praised Standard Chartered by giving it a double upgrade from "underperform" to "outperform" and describing it as "probably the best bank in the world".
Although Mr Gordon said he has considered it "an outstanding, well managed bank" for a long time, he defended his previously bearish stance by pointing out he is "always careful not to confuse operational excellence with the attractiveness (or otherwise) of an investment opportunity".
However, its recent share price fall means things have changed, he said, noting that a trading update in December which "represented a small miss against frothy market expectations" plus "increasing (and, we believe, exaggerated) investor concerns over the potential impact of rising Asian inflation... has conspired to create the attractive re-entry opportunity that we now see".
Investors were clearly sold on Mr Gordon's argument – if not his taste in music – with Standard Chartered outperforming its sector rivals on the top-tier index by moving up 45p to 1,674p.
Overall, the FTSE 100 managed to halt its recent slide and add 94.88 points to close at 5,957.82. There was positive manufacturing data from across the globe, including the UK, with strong Chinese figures helping the miners. Copper stood out among the commodities by reaching a new high, leaving Kazakhmys – up 72p to 1,578p – and Antofagasta – up 66p to 1,472p – in particularly good shape.
With hundreds of thousands of Egyptians taking part in the largest rally yet against President Hosni Mubarak, the ongoing political uncertainty meant the tour operators were still falling and Tui Travel and Thomas Cook dropped 1.5p to 251.5p and 2.7p to 187.9p respectively. However, the gold miner Centamin Egypt continued its recovery, advancing 10.6p to 147p, after it said its operations in the country were going ahead as normal. Meanwhile, IAG, the airline group that owns BA and Iberia, managed to regain some of Monday's losses, rising 3.8p to 260.2p, as did Hikma Pharmaceuticals (which has a high exposure to the region) with a climb of 30.5p to 834.5p.
BP was one of a number of major companies releasing updates yesterday and as expected it announced the resumption of dividends, albeit well below the level before the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
The oil giant also revealed its first annual loss for nearly 20 years, prompting it to drop in early trading before it rallied to close 6.15p higher at 491p.
Autonomy was near the top following its final results. Advancing 94p to 1,590p, the software company said that its revenue had beaten expectations while announcing that a planned acquisition of an unnamed group had hit a delay. The Cambridge-based chip maker Arm Holdings also surpassed market forecasts with its full-year numbers, and rose 31.5p to 547.5p.
BAE Systems retreated 8.4p to 333.6p following the re-emergence of well-worn speculation that the defence giant could be interested in attempting to buy the US security company SRA International.
There was no shortage of buyers of Ocado on the FTSE 250, as it reached a new high with a surge of 29.7p to 247.7p after its final results. The online grocer revealed that in the fourth-quarter it had banked a profit for the first time, while also announcing plans to increase the range of products it sells.
With voices on the trading floor citing a squeeze of short positions as one driver behind its huge move, not everyone was positive. Shore Capital kept its "sell" advice, saying that it remains "to be convinced that there is a compelling business model that merits a materially premium stock rating to the market". The broker also dampened the re-emergence last week of gossip regarding a possible takeover attempt of the company, saying that if true "we would have expected Ocado and the UK regulator to have made a comment before now."
Tate & Lyle, meanwhile, was knocked back 9.5p to 542p following an update in which it said trading was on track to meet expectations, as Panmure Gordon said it was sceptical about recent chatter that the group could be about to receive a bid approach from Cargill.
Elsewhere a profit warning from Carpetright led it to dip 22p to 707.5p, with the retailer warning that an increase in the cost of raw materials would result in significant price hikes for customers.
On the Alternative Investment Market, African Aura rocketed 21.75p to 189p after the miner revealed a maiden resource of 1.04 billion tonnes of iron ore at its Nkout project in Cameroon. The company has an overall target for the project of 4 billion tonnes.
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