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Ashtead leads market revival as safe havens abandoned

by Chris Marshall on Mar 04, 2014 at 10:00

Ashtead leads market revival as safe havens abandoned

Global markets recovered their poise, rallying back after Monday’s steep losses as fears receded about the implications of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

Shares rose and gold dropped back after reports that Russia has ordered troops involved in military exercise to return to their bases. But Russian and Ukrainian troops remain in a tense stand-off in Crimea, even as a reported ultimatum for Ukrainian surrender passed without incident.

Most European share indices were trading about 1% higher, with Britain’s FTSE 100 recovering some 75 of the 100 points it had shed on Monday. Russian stocks rallied nearly 4% after falling 10% yesterday.

Similarly, commodity prices fell back after rallying on Monday. Gold fell 0.9% to $1,338 per ounce, and Brent crude oil futures dropped 1.4% to $109.67 per barrel. Wheat prices fell back after shooting up yesterday as investors worried about the Ukrainian supply of grain.  

Other safe havens saw reversals in flows today too. The Japanese yen fell back to 101.79 against the US dollar, while the euro and British pound both crept higher against the US currency.

Losses on Wall Street had been pared back overnight as traders took cheer from a slightly improving news flow from Ukraine, with Asian shares managing gains.

Investors were partly distracted from the geopolitical gyrations by the day’s large haul of corporate earnings announcements.

In London Ashtead (AHT.L) was the biggest blue chip riser, up 8% to 914p after the equipment rental group reported a 54% rise in adjusted pre-tax profits to £80.4 million for the three months to the end of January. The group also raised its full-year profit target.

Ashtead shares are still worth buying, said Cantor analyst Caroline de La Soujeole: ‘We continue to believe the company is well placed to see further growth over the medium-term driven by structural changes, end market recovery and market share gains in its core US market.’

At the other end of the index, Fresnillo (FRES.L) was down nearly 10% at 876p after the silver miner reported a 64% decline in pre-tax profit for 2013.

In addition to earnings updates and news about Ukraine, investors have plenty morethis week to keep them busy.

On Wednesday China’s National Peoples’ Congress session starts, where the leadership will announce its economic targets and reforms for the year ahead. The government is expected to maintain a 7.5% GDP target for 2014 (after 7.7% growth in 2013).

The European Central Bank and Bank of England are due to make policy decisions, while Friday’s US labour market update will feed into the debate over whether the US Federal Reserve will continue to gradually cut back its stimulus scheme.

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