Leading shares are attempting a rally but it cannot be described as convincing. Financial companies have turned in a mixed performance with RSA Insurance rising 6p to 105p following Tuesday's news that it had appointed former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Stephen Hester as its chief executive. Hester will take over as the insurer attempts to recover from an accounting scandal at its Irish business. Eamonn Flanagan at Shore Capital said: In essence, a terrific appointment but one which is unlikely to deliver a quick fix. Moves on the dividend are likely, with a greater probability of a capital raise due to the regard that Hester is held amongst institutions. We are greatly enthused by the news and fully agree with the market's positive reaction to it yesterday. However, we reiterate our hold recommendation, preferring to await the outcome of the strategic review before returning with a more positive recommendation. RSA is the biggest gainer in the FTSE 100 while investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown is the biggest faller. Hargreaves is down 91p at £14.06 after its half year figures came in slightly shy of expectations, despite a jump in client numbers attracted by the Royal Mail flotation. Chief executive Ian Gorham said: We...welcomed 77,000 new clients during the period, easily the most for any six months in our history, and more than the first six months of 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined. Profits rose 11% despite the effects of a low interest rate environment. But Owen Jones at Shore Capital said: Top line growth of 13% equated to £158.4m versus consensus of around £166m and pretax profit growth of 11% to £104.1m, missed consensus of around £107m, and led to a diluted earnings per share of 17.0p. An interim dividend of 7.0p has been announced, which gives growth of 11% from the first half of 2013. Net new business for the period was £2.8bn, including 77,000 new customers added during the period, 27,000 of which can be attributed just to the Royal Mail IPO. The shares have been very strong performers this year so far, rising by around 10% relative to the market, and this morning's results appear to have missed consensus slightly, owing to net interest margins on cash holdings falling from their equivalent in the first half of 2013. Overall the FTSE 100 is up 23.63 points at 6472.90, after a rise in Asian markets after Wall Street recovered some of the recent lost ground. But investors are still nervous about possible problems in emerging markets, as well as a slowdown in the US economy. With the Bank of England and European Central Bank both meeting on Thursday, and US non-farm payroll figures on Friday, caution and volatility are likely to remain dominant features. Elsewhere Arm has recovered 29.5p to 904.5p after Tuesday's negative reaction to its results. Associated British Foods has added 74p to £28.36 following comments on Tuesday from Morgan Stanley suggesting the market was undervaluing its Primark business, which could be worth more than the current value of the whole company. Unilever is down 13p at £23.15 as its shares went ex-dividend.
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