FTSE attempts May Day close above 6800

As mainland Europe takes a lie in to celebrate May Day, the FTSE 100 has done its best to keep us entertained, trading higher by 20 points and lifting its head above the 6800 level, looking for the first close above there since early March.

Household names Lloyds (+4%) and BSkyB (+3%) are putting smiles on the faces of equity investors today, both impressing with their updates. Lloyds, IG’s most popular stock, impressed on every metric, and the bulls will be saying that the chance to buy in the low 70p area has gone, with only the sale of the government’s remaining stake standing in the way. Lloyds was trading more consistently above 80p earlier in the year, and dividend discussions to be had in the second half should help it get back there. It is worth pointing out they are basically flat year-to-date, but this does put them ahead of their banking peers who haven’t had the best of starts to the year.

BSkyB has defied sceptics and increased TV customers strongly in their third quarter. BT’s foray into sports has shaken up the market, but Sky’s strength in depth and increased emphasis on its headline US programming was a large contributing factor.

Vodafone is helping to contain moves as some of its takeover premium gets shaved off, while AT&T is looking at a merger with DirecTV, possibly ruling out a future bid for Vodafone. Morrisons (-0.4%) has joined the cost-cutting war, reducing the prices of everyday items, as the fallout from the public’s switch to discounters continues.

Looking ahead to the afternoon, the record new high for the Dow Jones headline has been recycled, and another few points are being added in the futures markets, pointing to an open at 16,590. Last night’s Federal Reserve taper confirmation came as expected and they pointed towards improving conditions, glossing over a weak first quarter. Non-farm payrolls tomorrow are expected at 210,000; critics will really want to see a print above the watched 200,000 line after two near misses in recent months.

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