(Alliance News) - European equities were on the up on Thursday, despite lingering US interest rate worries and poor China data.

The FTSE 100 index was up 25.06 points, 0.3%, at 7,426.78. The FTSE 250 was up 79.72 points, 0.5%, at 17,925.98, and the AIM All-Share was up 2.01 points, 0.3%, at 703.69.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.3% at 741.32, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.4% at 15,555.44, and the Cboe Small Companies was down 0.1% at 12,911.41.

In European equities, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.6%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.4%.

The US Federal Reserve is likely done raising interest rates to tackle inflation but probably will not cut them "in the short term," a senior policymaker said Wednesday.

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker told a conference in Evanston, Illinois, that he felt holding interest rates at their current, restrictive, level was the right course of action.

Harker spoke after remarks from Fed Chair Powell. Investors were hoping for some guidance from Powell on Wednesday, but he gave little away about interest rates. He did not comment on the outlook for the US economy, either.

"While hopes have risen recently that cuts will be on the horizon sooner rather than later next year, it is clear that the Fed will be driven by the data, and no definite path has been set," said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter.

Powell speaks again at 1900 GMT on Thursday. Also still to come on Thursday is the latest US jobless claims reading at 1330 GMT.

Stocks in New York were called to open mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was called up 0.2%, the S&P 500 index up 0.1%, but the Nasdaq Composite down 0.1%.

The pound traded at USD1.2258 on Thursday midday, down from USD1.2300 at the time of the London equities close on Wednesday. The euro was down at USD1.0684 from USD1.0707. Against the yen, the greenback climbed to JPY151.17 from JPY150.83.

China slipped back into deflation in October, highlighting the work officials have in reviving still-sluggish demand in the world's number two economy.

The consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, fell 0.2% on-year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The index had been unchanged year-on-year in September and edged up 0.1% in August.

A poor demand outlook weighed on oil prices, meanwhile, which have fallen recently amid no supply disruptions being seen in the Middle East, despite the war between Israel and Hamas.

A barrel of Brent Crude fetched USD79.97 on Thursday at midday, down from USD80.05 at the time of the European equities close on Wednesday.

There was also a slew of updates which gave a mixed view of the health of London-listed corporates.

"A mixed bag is putting it lightly. Plenty of companies are finding they cannot meet market expectations and so we're seeing some chunky one-day share price declines," said AJ Bell analyst Russ Mould.

In the FTSE 100, Flutter Entertainment shares led losses by dropping 8.8%, with the Paddy Power owner's outlook disappointing as the firm grapples with punter-friendly sports results.

It now expects US revenue of GBP3.75 billion, around the middle of its previous GBP3.6 billion to GBP3.9 billion range. US adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of GBP140 million are expected, around the middle of its GBP90 million to GBP190 million range. Excluding the US, it expects group revenue at the bottom of its GBP1.44 billion to GBP1.6 billion range.

Total revenue in the third-quarter of 2023 was 7.6% higher at GBP2.04 billion from GBP1.89 billion a year prior.

Looking to next year, Flutter expects to list on the New York Stock Exchange in the first quarter of 2024. It will delist from Euronext Dublin "simultaneously or shortly prior to this".

B&M lost 3.5%, despite the retailer saying revenue in the half-year to September 23 rose 10% to GBP2.55 billion from GBP2.31 billion.

Pretax profit grew 11% to GBP222 million from GBP201 million, while it lifted its ordinary dividend by 2.0% to 5.1 pence from 5.0p.

Peel Hunt analysts said B&M start to the Christmas period has been "satisfactory without being eye-catching".

Auto Trader fared much better, leading the FTSE 100 with a 7.7% rise. Revenue in the automotive marketplace's first-half ended September 30 rose 12% to GBP280.5 million from GBP249.8 million. Its pretax profit was 10% higher at GBP162.8 million from GBP148.0 million.

AstraZeneca rose 2.8%, as it lifted guidance, posted a better third-quarter and announced a deal in the burgeoning weight loss drug space.

Total revenue in the third quarter of 2023 rose 4.6% on-year to USD11.49 billion from USD10.98 billion. Pretax profit was 79% higher at USD1.65 billion from USD922 million, the drugmaker said.

AstraZeneca reported core earnings per share growth of 4% to US1.73. It now expects full-year core EPS growth in the "low double-digit to low-teens percentage" range at constant currency. It had previously predicted "high single-digit to low double-digit percentage" growth.

AstraZeneca said it has also landed a pact focused on an obesity drug, agreeing a licence deal for ECC5004 with biopharmaceutical firm Eccogene.

Eccogene gets USD185 million upfront and could receive an additional USD1.83 billion in future "clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones and tiered royalties on product net sales".

"While this might be perceived as an attempt to jump on the coat tails of the likes of Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly in what has become a booming market, AstraZeneca has form for adding strings to its bow – prior to the Covid pandemic it was not considered to have any particular expertise in vaccines, for example," said AJ Bell's Mould.

"The latest update will build confidence the company can sustain its recent momentum and reclaim its position as the largest company on the FTSE 100 from energy giant Shell."

In the FTSE 250, Lancashire Holdings rose 6.9%, after it reported 23% year-on-year growth in gross premiums written to USD1.56 billion for the nine months to September 30, alongside announcing a capital return of up to USD169 million. This would be via a USD119 million special dividend and a USD50 million share buyback.

It also added Philip Broadley as a non-executive director and chair designate. Broadley is expected to take on the chair role following the firm's 2024 annual general meeting. He is currently a non-exec at Legal & General and senior independent director at AstraZeneca, roles he is expected to continue.

Domino's Pizza Group fell 7.4%, after the UK franchise of the wider US pizza chain reported like-for-like sales grew more than 3.7% in the third quarter, while its total sales increased 5.5%.

However, total orders fell 1.2% in the quarter to 16.2 million despite being up 1.5% overall in the year-to-date.

Chief Executive Andrew Rennie said: "Our franchisees are performing well in an uncertain market, and we are all benefitting from an aligned system....As we look into next year, we see inflation stabilising and our focus will be on continued customer and order growth, as well as franchisee profitability."

Among the small-caps, STV shares hit a 52-week low on Thursday. It went into the afternoon 5.9% lower.

The television broadcaster and content producer said it expects annual operating profit of GBP20 million in 2023, hurt by "weak national TV advertising in [the fourth quarter] and the related effect on the rate of commissioning in Studios". This would be down from the GBP25.3 million achieved in 2022.

Gold faded to USD1,948.20 an ounce on Thursday midday in London, from USD1,954.55 at the time of the European equities close on Wednesday.

By Greg Rosenvinge, Alliance News senior reporter

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