The FTSE Finish Line: Earnings Uptick Leads Blue Chips Marginally Higher Into Month End

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UK stocks saw a slight increase on Thursday, driven by a series of positive earnings reports from companies such as Haleon and Ocado. However, the gains were limited by a decrease in some financial stocks. The FTSE 100 index rose by 0.2%.

Howden Joinery, a UK-based supplier of kitchens and joinery products, saw a 7.4% increase in its stock price to 830p, making it the top gainers on the FTSE 100 index. The company expressed confidence in its outlook for 2024 and reported encouraging revenue growth in the new financial year across all the countries where it operates. Despite this positive outlook, the company experienced a larger-than-expected 19% drop in annual profit due to subdued home construction and improvement activities. Analysts at Peel Hunt believe that the company is still performing well enough to justify a decent valuation multiple, despite an unhelpful market in 2024. The stock has seen a 7.8% increase in the last 12 months as of the last close.

Ocado, the UK's online supermarket, saw a 5.3% increase in its shares, reaching 516.6p and becoming one of the top gainers on the FTSE 100 index. This growth comes as the company predicts faster expansion in 2024, following improved performance from its automated warehouse technology unit, which helped it exceed annual core earnings estimates. Ocado anticipates a 15% to 20% revenue growth in technology solutions for FY24 and mid-to-high digits percentage growth in its retail revenue for the same period. According to Jefferies, while it is challenging to isolate the exact impact on FY24 expectations, Ocado's guidance aligns largely with their forecasts on all headline metrics. The stock was down approximately 10.5% in the last twelve months as of the last close. 

Haleon, a UK consumer healthcare company, is experiencing a 7% rise in its stock price, reaching 336p and becoming the top percentage gainer in the FTSE blue-chip index. The company has announced a positive outlook for its annual organic revenue growth, forecasting a range of 4-6% for FY24, which is slightly higher than analysts' estimate of 4.5%. Additionally, Haleon expects its adjusted operating profit to surpass the revenue growth range and market forecasts of 7.1%. In FY23, the company achieved an 8% revenue growth with an adjusted operating profit increase of 10.4%. However, Haleon anticipates a slightly lower organic revenue growth in Q1, falling just below the lower end of the 4-6% range due to tough comparatives.

The London Stock Exchange Group's shares are down 2% following the release of its annual earnings, which were in line with expectations. The company reported earnings per share for 2022 of 323.9p, a 1.9% increase year-over-year, slightly below analysts' consensus of 328.2p. The group also confirmed its plans to buy £1 billion ($1.27 billion) in shares directly from Blackstone and Thomson Reuters this year. Thomson Reuters, the owner of Reuters News, holds a minority stake in LSEG, and LSEG pays Reuters for news. The company reported a total income, excluding recoveries, of £8 billion, a 7.8% increase from the previous year. CEO David Schwimmer expressed optimism about the IPO pipeline for the London Stock Exchange and stated that he looks forward to further progress in 2024. The stock has seen a ~20% increase in the last 12 months as of the last close. Barclays stock was under pressure as it traded without the entitlement to the dividend down 1.6% on the day. This means that investors who bought the stock during this period would not be eligible to receive the upcoming dividend payment. 

FTSE Bias: Bullish Above Bearish below 7650

  • Below7590 opens 7550
  • Primary support 7450
  • Primary objective 7768
  • 5 Day VWAP bearish
  • 20 Day VWAP bearish

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