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Britain's FTSE steady before BoE meeting as earnings flow in
November 2, 2017 / 10:17 AM / a month ago

Britain's FTSE steady before BoE meeting as earnings flow in

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* FTSE up 0.1 pct, mid caps flat

* Playtech falls 20 pct after warning

* BT falls as profit falls, Shell near 3-yr high

* Morrison little changed after in-line update

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Caution before the Bank of England’s policy decision kept UK stocks little changed on Thursday amid a raft of earnings updates and a profit warning at Playtech that wiped off one fifth of the gaming software firm’s market value.

The FTSE was up 0.1 percent at 7.497,22 points by 1003 GMT, while the mid cap index was flat.

The BoE is expected to raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade even though economic growth appears weaker than before any other increase in borrowing costs in the past 20 years.

“The Bank of England is widely expected to raise rates. The question is whether this is ‘one and done’ or the start of a tightening cycle,” said ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson.

“If a Brexit deal cannot be inked by December it could one up, one down.”

Governor Mark Carney will hold a news conference at 1230 GMT, half an hour after the BoE publishes its decision.

Randgold was the biggest faller on the FTSE, down 4.8 percent, after the precious metals miner reported falls in third quarter production and profit but said output for the year remained on track to meet or exceed expectations.

Morrison Supermarkets inched lower by 0.3 percent after Britain’s fourth largest supermarket group reported another rise in quarterly sales, its eighth straight quarter of underlying growth though its rate of growth slowed a little.

“An in-line update from Morrison will do little to change the current debate on the shares,” said Jefferies in a note.

Elsewhere in the sector, Tesco added 1.1 percent and Sainsbury’s added 0.5 percent, while online supermarket Ocado fell 0.8 percent, as results from Morrison showed a slowing online contribution to sales.

Still in earnings, BT fell more than 2 percent after the phone group posted a 4 percent drop in quarterly adjusted earnings, dragged down by ongoing problems at its Global Services unit, higher pension costs and sports rights.

Royal Dutch Shell added 0.4 percent, remaining close to its highest level since September 2014.

The oil major reported a near 50 percent rise in quarterly profits, driven by strong refining, while solid cash generation underscored that the oil and gas company has adapted well to a world of low oil prices.

On the mid cap index, Playtech fell 22.9 percent. The gambling technology company warned on annual profit on Thursday saying it will be around 5 percent below the bottom end of market expectations due to a slowdown in parts of Asia and problems with a bingo contract.

Banks which are particularly sensitive to monetary policy and whose margins can benefit when rate rise, were little changed.

In the sector, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank fell around 0.2 percent, while CYBG slumped 3.9 percent, hit by news it would take a pretax charge of 39 million pounds to help to cover the cost of the UK’s payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal.

Keefe Bruyette & Woods analysts said these three banks were best placed to benefit from one-off rate hike but any sustained rate rises could eventually turn into a headwind.

“In that scenario, clients should enjoy the bounce (RBS still preferred pick), but be ready to be out of the sector once slowing house prices, volumes and rising credit impairments start to come through,” they said in a note. (Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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