United Utilities Group leads London utility sector higher

United Utilities Group leads London utility sector higher

Most equities markets in Europe saw gains Friday after the US Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate in the United States fell last month.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.23 percent to 5,997.38 in London, while the FTSE 250 added 0.78 percent to 11,666.5.

Utilities were mostly higher, led by water utility United Utilities Group (LSE: UU), which was up 4.32 percent, while Severn Trent and International Power joined United Utilities among the top five gainers on the 100, adding 3.6 percent and 3.36 percent respectively, while the only decliner in the sector was electric power generator Drax Group (LSE: DRX), which dropped 0.1 percent.

The best performer on the 100 was insurer Old Mutual (LSE: OML), with a gain of 4.97 percent., while clothing retailer SuperGroup (LSE: SGP) added 11.76 percent to lead gains on the 250.

Exillon Energy (LSE: EXI) led declines in the energy sector and on the 250, falling 5.07 percent, while four of the five top decliners on the 100 were from the sector as Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE) fell 2.67 percent as the worst performer on the 100, followed by Royal Dutch Shell’s (LSE: RDSA, RDSB) ‘A’ shares with a decline of 2.05 percent and ‘B’ shares, which dropped 1.49 percent, while Essar Energy (LSE: ESSR), which has interest both in oil and power generation, fell 1.42 percent.

There were seven gainers in the energy sector, lead by Premier Oil (LSE: PMO) with a gain of 2 percent.

Most miners were higher, led by Kenmare Resources (LSE: KMR) with a gain of 6.3 percent, while the five decliners in the sector were topped by Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO), which fell 2.17 percent.

Homebuilders saw gains after fewer UK homeowners put their houses on the market and prices for homes were higher, with Taylor Wimpey (LSE: TW) turning in the best performance in the sector, adding 6.86 percent, while Bellway (LSE: BWY) was up 6.23 percent.

Banks were mixed in London trade although UBS raised its recommendation on the region’s banking sector to “overweight”, with Barclays Bank (LSE: BARC) leading London banks as it added 2.39 percent.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.11 percent to 1,163.81 while the CAC-40 added 0.26 percent to 4,047.21 and the Dax gained 0.31 percent to 7,216.21, but the IBEX dropped 0.06 percent to 10,854.7.

With most markets in the Asia-Pacific region still closed in observance of Lunar New Year, the few markets remaining open were mostly higher, although India’s Sensex dropped 2.39 percent to 18,008.2 after the nation’s prime minister said that inflation could seriously threaten economic growth there.

The Nikkei 225 was 1.08 percent higher to 10,543.5 in Tokyo, while the Topix index added 0.84 percent to 935.36 and the Mothers market gained 1.52 percent to 472.48.

Steelmakers Nippon Steel (TYO: 5401) and Sumitomo Metal Industries (TYO: 5405) were significantly higher on the announcement that the two plan to merge, with Nippon adding 9.1 percent while Sumitomo Metal (TYO: 5405) gained 16 percent on the news.

Consumer electronics giant Sony (TYO: 6758) was 1.8 percent higher on quarterly net income that exceeded analyst forecasts, while conglomerate Hitachi (TYO: 6501) added 3 percent after it raised its full-year prediction on net income by 15 percent.

On the other hand, Mazda Motor (TYO: 7261) dropped 4.6 percent on a net loss in its fiscal third quarter, as a stronger yen reduced its ability to compete in export markets.

In Australia, the Sydney Ordinaries gained 0.8 percent to 4,958.8 and the S&P/ASX200 added 0.87 percent to 4,862.7 after the Reserve Bank of Australia said the economy there will expand more than expected this year on rebuilding after recent floods.

New York markets were mixed in midday trade as the Labor Department sent a mixed message on jobs as it reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent in January, from 9.4 percent in December, after expectations that it would rise to 9.5 percent, but that the US economy only added 36,000 jobs rather than the 140,000 jobs analysts expected to be created last month.

The disparity in the data results from the fact that the Labor Department only takes into account unemployed individuals who are actively looking for work when determining the unemployment rate, which indicates that a large number of people simply gave up looking for work in January.

At around 12:45 p.m. in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.03 percent to 12,058.1 and the S&P 500 had dropped 0.06 percent to 1,306.35, but the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.22 percent to 2,759.83.

Crude oil prices were lower in midday trade, with March contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude down $1.46 to $89.08 per barrel in New York, while recent reports had Brent crude slightly below $100 per barrel as it dropped $1.79 to $99.97 per barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.

Metals prices were mixed as silver and copper both saw gains, but April gold had dropped $4.60 to $1,348.40 per troy ounce in New York trade.

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