US and EU data overshadows world markets26/04/2012 - 15:30:09
Worrying economic data in the US and Europe overshadowed encouraging corporate results today and halted the recent recovery in world markets.
The FTSE 100 Index was down five points at 5714.3 despite Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever pushing higher following pleasing results.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat after a weaker than expected fall in unemployment claims fuelled fears about the strength of the world’s biggest economy.
And markets in Germany and France were lower after a survey revealed that economic sentiment in the eurozone fell more than expected in April.
Markets suffered heavy falls on Monday amid political uncertainty in the eurozone but in the following days strong results in the US helped buoy confidence.
Today there were strong results in the UK, with Royal Dutch Shell helping to lift the market by as much as 40 points in early trading with its profits haul of $7.66bn.
This was up 11% on a year ago and it bettered the consensus market forecast by around 10%.
Shares were 3% or 56.5p higher at 2245.5p while BP benefited ahead of its own figures on Tuesday, rising 5.7p to 438p.
Hellmann’s and Knorr firm Unilever added 3% or 53.5p to 2132.5p after first quarter underlying sales rose by a bigger than expected 8.4%.
It has successfully passed on rising costs to consumers in the Americas and emerging markets.
Sales volumes were up 3.5% overall although challenging trading conditions meant price growth was limited to 1% in Europe.
And there was a rise of 4% for Whitbread after the Costa coffee, Premier Inn and Beefeater restaurants business announced it grew full-year profits by 11% to £320.1m. Shares were up 81p to 1890p as chief executive Andy Harrison said the group was on track to meet its five-year growth milestones.
One low note for investors came from pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca after it blamed a “loss of exclusivity” on its products for a 38% decline in first quarter pre-tax profits to $2.1bn.
It scaled back earnings forecasts and said chief executive David Brennan will step down in June after six years at the helm.
Shares were off 6% or 176.8p at 2664.3p.
Outside the top flight, shares in Howden Joinery were 5% higher, up 5.4p to 123.1p, after the kitchen supplier said its UK revenues rose 5.9% in the first 16 weeks of the year.
But online retailer ASOS slumped 13% or 213.5p to 1383.5p after it reported weaker-than-expected sales growth in the UK and the United States.
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