June 5, 2019 / 7:28 AM / 3 months ago

FTSE 100 ekes out gains on hopes of Fed rate cut, Provident surges

(Reuters) - London’s main index inched higher on Wednesday as comments from the U.S. central bank seen hinting at a rate cut soothed investor nerves, while mid-cap sub-prime lender Provident surged after rival NSF dropped its hostile bid.

FILE PHOTO: Traders looks at financial information on computer screens on the IG Index trading floor in London, Britain February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

The FTSE 100 rose 0.1%, up for the third straight session, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 rose 0.3%.

“Markets are in a state of flux right now, so we are seeing broader swings without a directional shift. I’d be cautious about any rally like this when it seems to be on nothing but fumes,” Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said.

Following comments by St Louis colleague James Bullard, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday the bank would react “as appropriate” to the fallout from an intensifying Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

Global markets gained in response, interpreting the comments as an indication that the prospect of a rate cut was rising and a shift from the more patient stance the Fed has taken in recent months.

“Not an explicit reference to a cut but enough for this market to latch on to,” Wilson said. “Those betting the farm on the Fed cutting rates this year may be left with a small harvest.”

Housebuilders, seen as particularly vulnerable to any fallout from Brexit, gained after a business survey showed a modest expansion among services firms in May.

However, the bigger picture remained murky as the data also showed almost stagnant British economic growth on Brexit jitters and global growth worries.

Money manager Hargreaves Lansdown fell another 6.8%, pushing this week’s losses to over 11% after well-known money manager Neil Woodford suspended trading in one of his funds on Tuesday.

Following on from the suspension, Woodford said that orders to trade in his flagship fund placed after 1100 GMT last Friday had been rejected, leaving investors unsure of when they would get their money back.

Mid-cap Woodford Patient Capital Trust also shed 6.9%.

Subprime lender Provident Financial soared 16.1% on its best day in more than three months as it succeeded in fending off a hostile 1.3 billion pound bid from smaller rival Non-Standard Finance.

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Andrew Heavens and Kirsten Donovan

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