The FTSE 100 has inched higher as fresh unease over the crisis in the Ukraine put a lid on gains, with Hargreaves Lansdown leading the fallers as the online stock broker was branded a ‘sell’ by analysts at UBS.
The UK blue-chip index rose three points to 6,627 as anxious investors awaited the next developments in the Ukraine. The index yesterday rose 1% on news that Russia was beginning to pull back troops built up on the Ukraine border, but that optimism has been dampened by Nato’s claim that there was a ‘high probability’ of a Russian attack on Ukraine.
Russia’s despatch of a convoy of 280 trucks to Ukraine it says are carrying humanitarian aid has also been viewed with suspicion in some quarters.
‘Markets are keen to find out what [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s definition of “humanitarian” is,’ said Jonathan Sudaria, dealer at Capital Spreads.
‘Traders are turning cautious though fearing that something has gotten lost in translation and only too clearly remember how much the “peace keeping” force in Georgia in 2008 resembled an invading army.’
Hargreaves Lansdown (HRGV) fell 2.8% to £10.51 after UBS initiated coverage of the stock with a ‘sell’ rating and target price of 850p. The shares, which doubled in value over the course of 2013, have been among the worst performers on the FTSE 100 this year, down 20%.
Prudential (PRU) was the biggest riser, trading 2.4% higher at £13.71 after the insurer reported a 17% rise in operating profits in the first half of the year.
‘Mid cap’ stock Just Eat (JE) rose 9.3% to 240p after the online takeaway service reported an almost seven-fold jump in half-year profit.
Fellow FTSE 250 stock Serco (SRP) rose 4% to 341.9p as the outsourcing firm announced first-half results that were less bad than feared.
Serco stuck to 2014 profit guidance, albeit warning that meeting expectations would depend on delivering savings and fixing underperforming contracts, prompting relief among traders. Serco has already issued several profit forecast cuts this year, with its share price falling around 32% over 2014
‘The results for the half year to end June are better than our worst fears, but still pretty grim reading in surveying the tribulations of the past year for Serco,’ said Robin Speakman, analyst at Shore Capital.