UK stocks will be in focus today, ahead of some key economic reports scheduled for later in the day.
Context: British stocks closed lower on Thursday, after posting strong gains in the previous session. The energy sector was the worst performer in yesterday’s session. Overall market sentiment was hurt by the dividend cut by Royal Dutch Shell and the disclosure of massive loan-loss provisions by Lloyds Banking Group.
Details: Royal Dutch Shell lowered its dividend for the first time in 80 years. The company reduced its first-quarter dividend by two-thirds and suspended share repurchases, despite rival BP maintaining its quarterly dividend. Royal Dutch Shell’s shares dropped 10% following the announcement.
Shares of Lloyds Banking Group plunged 7% on Thursday after the bank announced provisions of £1.4 billion to cover loan losses arising from the coronavirus outbreak.
AstraZeneca bucked the market trend, rising around 2% after the company announced a deal with the University of Oxford on a Covid-19 vaccine.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would disclose his reopening plan for the economy next week, as the country is amid the peak levels of coronavirus cases.
The ECB left its interest rates unchanged, but said that the central bank was ready to lift stimulus measures to save the economy from the impact of the pandemic. The market also responded to the US Labor Department reporting a rise in jobless claims by 3.84 million last week, taking the six-week numbers to over 30 million.
London’s FTSE 100 fell 3.5% to close at 5,901.21 points on Thursday. Despite this downturn, the index posted its strongest monthly rise since April 2018, gaining 4% in the month.
What to watch: Investors continue to assess the daily coronavirus figures, with the total number of cases exceeding 3.2 million globally. The number of positive cases in the UK has surpassed 172,480 with around 26,840 deaths.
Markets also await a basket of economic reports from the UK, including the manufacturing PMI, house price index, mortgage approvals, mortgage lending and consumer credit. The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI is expected to drop to 32.8 in April, from 47.8 in March. The Nationwide's house price index, which rose by 3% in March, is projected to rise another 2.5% in April.
Other Markets: US indices closed lower on Thursday, with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 down by 1.17%, 0.92% and 0.28%, respectively.