(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London faltered at midday Friday, despite strong gains by Standard Chartered, as the wave of euphoria after Nvidia's blow-out earnings began to fade.

A drop in UK consumer confidence didn't help the mood.

At midday, the FTSE 100 index was down slightly, 1.05 points, at 7,683.44. The FTSE 250 was down 78.99 points, 0.4%, at 19,184.51, and the AIM All-Share was down 1.34 points, 0.2%, at 748.62.

The Cboe UK 100 was down 0.1% at 769.23, the Cboe UK 250 was down 0.6% at 16578.00, and the Cboe Small Companies was down 0.1% at 14490.02.

In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.5%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.1%.

The FTSE 100's subdued progress would have been much worse but for a 9.8% gain in Standard Chartered.

The Asia-focused bank brought in operating income of USD18.02 billion, a 10% increase from USD16.32 billion a year before. Net interest income increased 2.4% to USD7.77 billion from USD7.59 billion, while non NII jumped 17% to USD10.25 billion from USD8.73 billion. Pretax profit increased 19% to USD5.09 billion from USD4.29 billion.

StanChart proposed a final dividend of USD0.21 per share, bringing the full-year total to USD0.27 - a 50% increase from the prior year's 18-cent payout. It also announced plans for a USD1 billion share buyback to start "imminently".

AJ Bell's Russ Mould the bank's latest update sees the company "standing out for the right reasons as investors are won over by a generous dollop of cash for shareholders and an encouraging medium-term outlook".

"Medium-term returns targets are ahead of where the consensus is sitting so if these can be delivered they could help lift the company’s valuation," he added.

"However, its focus on developing economies brings with it a level of unpredictability which may get in the way of these aspirations".

GfK's long-running Consumer Confidence Index fell two points to minus 21 in February, although the forecast for personal finances over the next 12 months remained unchanged and is 18 points higher than this time last year.

Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics wasn't too concerned.

"Don’t worry about the small drop in GfK’s composite index in February, which is either just volatility or a seasonal drop, or both," he said.

"The composite index is not seasonally adjusted, but consumers' confidence takes a knock every February, perhaps because the post-Christmas sales end," he explained.

"The index will resume its ascent as falling inflation releases more consumer spending power and as the further tax cuts we expect from the Chancellor in April kick-in," he added.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2682 at midday on Friday in London, up compared to USD1.2671 at the equities close on Thursday. The euro stood at USD1.0828, down against USD1.0848. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY150.66, up compared to JPY150.23.

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

On Thursday, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 hit record highs inspired by gains in technology stocks, led by Nvidia.

Nvidia's market capitalisation gained USD277 billion on Thursday alone, the biggest one day increase in market cap ever. That is more the total value of Shell, the FTSE 100's biggest company.

But Kathleen Brooks at XTB Research said after the euphoria of this week’s rally, "comes the focus on the future".

"While that is a powerful backdrop for tech stocks to continue to rally, market breadth remains a concern for investors. The question now is, can the rally in tech spread to other sectors?"

Back in London, British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines fell 1.0% after a report in the Financial Times on Thursday that Brussels is preparing to lay out objections to its second attempt to buy Spanish carrier Air Europa.

IAG, agreed in February last year to buy the 80% of Air Europa it does not already own for about EUR400 million, after abandoning an earlier effort at the height of the pandemic.

The FT said the European Commission is poised to detail objections to the deal early next month, citing three people with knowledge of the matter, who said such a move would amount to a warning that the transaction faces a veto unless credible concessions are made.

A final decision is expected in June.

In the FTSE 250, Breedon added 1.6%, as Barclays raised the stock to 'overweight' from 'equal weight'. Domino's Pizza fell 3.3% as Barclays cut the stock to 'equal weight' from 'overweight'.

Trainline was down 0.1% after UBS downgraded to 'neutral' from 'buy' although the Swiss bank raised its price target to 350 pence from 325p.

Among London's small-caps, City of London Investment rose 4.4%.

The investor in London-listed equities said its net asset value increased to 401.7 pence at December 31, from 385.2p at the end of June. Its NAV total return of 6.5% beat the FTSE All-Share index's return of 5.2%.

On AIM, shares in Hornby steamed ahead by 35%.

The Margate, England-based model railway company said Frasers Group has upped its stake in the company, the Sports Direct owner's latest target in its retail sector investment frenzy.

The company said that Frasers, the sporting goods retailer and owner of the House of Fraser department store chain, has acquired an additional 11.1 million shares in the company. This takes Frasers total holding in Hornby to 15.2 million shares, or 8.9% of the company.

Brent oil was quoted at USD82.31 a barrel at midday in London on Friday, down from USD82.84 late Thursday.

Gold was quoted at USD2,023.64 an ounce, lower against USD2,024.88.

By Jeremy Cutler, Alliance News reporter

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