A strong open on Wall Street, recovering some of the losses from earlier this week, provided a boost to the FTSE 100 on Thursday. By the close of trading the index of leading UK shares was up 0.57% at 7,421.43.
Next Tuesday (1 May), Wednesday (2 May) and Thursday (3 May) purchasing managers' index data is released for the UK manufacturing, construction and services sectors respectively. Also on Wednesday the US Federal Reserve announces its latest decision on interest rates. Recent speculation suggests the Fed may look to increase rates at a faster pace than the current guidance for two further hikes in the remainder of this year. On Friday (4 May) US non-farm payrolls are out. Among all the various global updates this is the one with the most power to move the market. The number, which is volatile and subject to frequent revisions, relates to job losses and creation, an activity that lags the economic cycle, but it is also the earliest release, based on hard data, to give a snapshot of the health of the world's largest economy.
Investors are scrambling to exit UK gambling firms such as William Hill (WMH) and GVC (GVC) amid media reports the max stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be cut to £2 a spin. Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) was also down. Last month, gambling stocks enjoyed an uplift after the Gambling Commission's review into FOBTs was not as bad as expected. The commission reported stakes should be cut to £30 or below in a bid to help reduce dangerous losses for problem gamblers.
FOBTs are a vital source of profits for bookmakers, as the casino games and computer simulated races generate very strong margins. But it seems the tide may have turned. Secretary of state for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Matthew Hancock, may opt for a £2 maximum stake with the support of the Treasury, according to reports. Media speculation also suggests the UK government could claw back any shortfalls in tax from the change by increasing point of consumption taxes online to 25%, up from 15%.
Next Wednesday (2 May) the initial estimate of Eurozone GDP for the first quarter of 2018 is published. The release follows a string of mixed-to-negative data on the Eurozone which has led to some speculation the European Central Bank might step back from an expected winding down of financial stimulus by the end of 2018.
The recent strength in oil prices is likely to benefit companies which are active in the oil and gas industry. You can gain exposure to a basket of US oil companies with Source Energy S&P US Select Sector (XLEP) for an ongoing charge of 0.3%.
30 April - A first quarter update from WPP (WPP) is likely to be overshadowed by the continuing fall-out from the resignation of chief executive and founder Martin Sorrell. Management are likely to be quizzed both on the succession issue and the future strategy of the group, and whether this could involve asset sales.
2 May - Drug maker Indivior (INDV) is scheduled to update on first quarter trading. The company recently warned its best-selling opioid addiction therapy in the US could suffer a 'rapid and material loss of market share' if it fails to appeal a court ruling. It reported that the US District Court for the District of Delaware had decided US pharma farm Alvogen did not infringe the patent of opioid addiction therapy Suboxone Film.
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