The S&P 500 closed in on the 5000 level for the first time last night in another record-breaking session in New York.
The index – home to America’s biggest companies, from Microsoft and Apple to General Electric and Coca-Cola – rose to an all-time high of 4999.
This came on the back of solid corporate earnings from the likes of Ford, which raised its first-quarter dividend and scaled back investments in electric vehicles.
Wall Street has also been boosted by excitement over artificial intelligence (AI) and signs that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and tech-heavy Nasdaq also moved higher.
Record high: The S&P 500 rose to an all-time high of 4996, on the back of solid corporate earnings from the likes of Ford, which raised its first-quarter dividend
The FTSE 100 fell 0.7 per cent, or 52.26 points, to 7628.75 and the FTSE 250 was down 0.4 per cent, or 66.81 points, to 19,104.53.
Shares in PZ Cussons plunged to their lowest level for more than 15 years after the owner of Imperial Leather soap warned on profits and slashed its dividend.
The group, whose brands also include Carex handwash and St Tropez fake tan, has been rocked by Nigerian currency volatility.
Revenues fell 17.8 per cent to £277million in the six months to December 2 as it lost £94million, having made a £40.5million profit in the same period the year before.
It cut its interim dividend by 44 per cent to 1.5p a share, and the stock tumbled 16.4 per cent, or 21p, to 107p – its lowest since 2008.
The naira was devalued in June last year as Nigeria tried to overhaul its multiple exchange rates, with PZ Cussons chief executive Jonathan Myers saying this had been the ‘most significant challenge’ it had faced.
It warned it was ‘difficult to foresee a significant rebound’. Packaging firm Smurfit Kappa recommended raising its final dividend by 10 per cent after its second-best results in its 90-year history – £9billion revenue and £1.7billion profit in 2023. It rose 3.6 per cent, or 102p, to 2972p.
Defence group Babcock expects another year of revenue growth but failed to upgrade its forecasts, and fell 8.9 per cent, or 41.6p, to 424.2p.
Ashmore, the asset manager focused on emerging markets such as Colombia, India and Saudi Arabia, rose 0.4 per cent, or 0.8p, to 211.4p after solid half-year results, with profits up 38 per cent to £74.5million in the six months to December 31.
Magazine publisher Future sank after the group behind Marie Claire, Country Life and Four Four Two reported a slow start to the year in digital advertising – and fell 7.4 per cent, or 53p, to 665p.
Irish conglomerate DCC said third-quarter profits were higher than the same period the year before.
The firm, which is focused on energy, healthcare and technology, has spent £45million on acquisitions since November. Shares climbed 0.6 per cent, or 34p, to 5794p.
Demand for renting remains ‘exceptionally high’, according to Grainger – up 1.9 per cent, or 5p, to 266p.
The residential landlord said its rental growth rose 8.3 per cent in the four months to the end of January, up from 7.7 per cent in the 12 months to September 30.
Mike Ashley’s fashion empire has strengthened its grip on Boohoo. Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct, Flannels and Jack Wills, raised its stake from 21.49 per cent to 22.09 per cent.
It rose 0.3 per cent, or 2p, to 801p, while Boohoo dropped 1.1 per cent, or 0.38p, to 35.03p.
Zinc Media, the TV production group behind the BBC series Putin vs The West expects record revenues and profits for 2023.
It also said that it had started this year with its highest level of forward bookings. The shares gained 6.3 per cent, or 5p, to 84.5p.
Coventry tech firm Aurrigo – up 5.4 per cent, or 5p, to 97.5 – has signed an agreement for its automatic baggage handling robots to be used at Munich airport.
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