(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London opened up on Wednesday, shaking off New York equities treading water and Asian stocks trending lower overnight amid a lack of economic data.

The FTSE 100 index opened up 34.20 points, 0.4%, at 8,347.87. The FTSE 250 was up 30.83 points, 0.2%, at 20,443.91, and the AIM All-Share was up 1.94 points, 0.3%, at 778.36.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.4% at 833.39, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.3% at 17,713.33, and the Cboe Small Companies was up 0.1% at 15,888.94.

"This follows a broadly flat session in the United States, as markets clung onto gains made in the latest winning streak. That's after a drag from the 9.5% drop in the value of Disney shares, the worst performance for over a year," said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Derren Nathan on the FTSE 100.

"Weakness in the oil price will come as welcome news to those leading the fight against inflation as thoughts start to turn towards tomorrow's Bank of England interest rate decision. There’s little expectation of an immediate cut but much of the recent market strength comes on back of rising hopes for the first cut in the summer."

In European equities on Wednesday, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.7%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.4%.

Sterling was quoted at USD1.2485 early Wednesday, lower than USD1.2542 at the London equities close on Tuesday.

The euro traded at USD1.0743 early Wednesday, lower than USD1.0774 late Tuesday. Against the yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY155.29 versus JPY154.49.

In the FTSE 100, Informa led the pack, rising 2.5%, after it increased its share buyback programme for 2024 by 50% to GBP500 million.

In a market update, the business information publisher and events organiser said all business were delivering ahead of or in line with annual targets.

Informa expects 2024 revenue will be at the the upper end of its GBP3.45 billion to GBP3.50 billion guidance range, while adjusted operating profit is expected to be at the upper end of GBP950 million to GBP970 million guidance range.

Centrica rose 2.1% to 133.94 pence, after UBS raised its rating for the owner of British Gas to 'buy' from 'neutral', setting an increased price target of 170p from 165p.

In the FTSE 250, OSB led gains, rising 5.5%.

The mortgage lender said financial and operational performance in the first quarter of 2024 was stable, with underlying net interest margin on track to meet full year guidance.

It reported first quarter new originations of GBP1.0 billion, down from GBP1.2 billion a year earlier, while underlying and statutory net loans and advances on March 31 rose to GBP26.0 billion from GBP25.7 billion on December 31.

OSB Chief Executive Officer Andy Golding commented: "The group is well positioned to deliver attractive and sustainable returns across the cycle, with a strong and resilient business model, robust capital and liquidity position, secured loan book and proven risk management capabilities. I look to the future with confidence."

JD Wetherspoon rose 3.2%, after the pub chain said like-for-like sales rose 5.2% in the 13 weeks to April 28 from a year earlier, while year-to-date like-for-like sales rose by 8.3%.

Total sales increased by 3.3% in the quarter and by 6.5% in the year-to-date, it added.

Looking ahead, JD Wetherspoon said it expects profits in the current financial year to be "towards the top of market expectations".

Among London's small caps, Ocean Wilsons rose 5.6%.

In the first quarter of 2024, the investment holding company said revenue rose to GBP129.4 million from GBP109.8 million a year earlier, while profit increased to USD21.2 million from USD16.4 million.

Across the first quarter, Ocean Wilsons said its portfolio increased in value by USD12.7 million or 4.1%, driven by the "strong performance of the public asset portfolio and the fact that the defensive portfolio performed well versus government bonds".

On AIM in London, boohoo lost 4.1%.

The fast fashion firm said pretax loss in the financial year ended February 29 widened to GBP159.9 million from GBP90.7 million a year earlier, hurt by a 17% fall in revenue to GBP1.46 billion from GBP1.77 billion.

boohoo said the decline in revenue was due to a focus on profitability and difficult market conditions.

Looking ahead, boohoo said it is targeting gross merchandise value growth in the year ahead and continued improvement in adjusted Ebitda margin.

It said it was confident of a 6% to 8% Ebitda margin target in the medium term, while it also said it is on track for GBP125 million in annualised cost savings for its financial 2025.

Brent oil was trading at USD82.18 a barrel early Wednesday, lower than USD83.51 late Tuesday.

Israel said it reopened the Kerem Shalom border crossing to humanitarian aid for Gaza on Wednesday, four days after closing it in response to a rocket attack that killed four soldiers.

"Trucks from Egypt carrying humanitarian aid, including food, water, shelter equipment, medicine and medical equipment donated by the international community are already arriving at the crossing," the army said in a joint statement with COGAT, the defence ministry body that oversees Palestinian civil affairs.

The supplies will be transferred to the Gaza side of the crossing after undergoing inspection, it added. The statement said the Erez border crossing between Israel and northern Gaza is also open for aid deliveries into the Palestinian territory.

The Kerem Shalom crossing was closed after a Hamas rocket attack killed four soldiers and wounded more than a dozen on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Israeli troops seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt after launching an incursion into the eastern sector of the city.

The United Nations and Israel's staunchest ally the US both condemned the closure of the two crossings which are a lifeline for civilians facing looming famine.

The US halted a shipment of bombs to Israel last week after it failed to address Washington's concerns over plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a senior US official said Tuesday.

Biden's administration made the decision when it appeared Israel was on the verge of a major ground operation into Rafah, which Washington has strongly opposed.

Israeli and US officials had been discussing alternatives but "those discussions are ongoing and have not fully addressed our concerns," the senior US official said.

Gold was quoted at USD2,310.82 an ounce early Wednesday, lower than USD2,322.59 on Tuesday.

In Asia on Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo ended down 1.6%. In China, the Shanghai Composite ended down 0.6%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was down 0.8% in late dealings. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed up 0.1%.

In the US on Tuesday, Wall Street ended treading water, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.1%, the S&P 500 up 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.1%.

By Greg Rosenvinge, Alliance News senior reporter

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