U.K. Stocks Little Changed as Investors Await Fed

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U.K. stocks closed little changed at a five-month high as Standard Life Plc retreated, offsetting worse-than-forecast data on U.S. private payrolls that fueled speculation the Federal Reserve will maintain stimulus.

Standard Life slid 4 percent after posting sales that missed estimates. Barclays Plc advanced 0.9 percent after posting third-quarter pretax profit that met estimates. Next Plc surged to its highest price in at least 25 years after raising its full-year profit target.

The FTSE 100 Index added 2.97 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 6,777.7, its highest level since May 22. The gauge has rallied 4.9 percent in October as U.S. lawmakers reached a last-minute deal to increase their government’s borrowing authority. The broader FTSE All-Share Index gained 0.1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index rose 0.5 percent.

“If the Fed starts tapering, that might have a short-term impact on equities, but for me, the main issue is the macro environment longer-term,” Christoph Riniker, head of strategy research at Julius Baer Group Ltd. in Zurich, said by telephone. “We have an improving macro environment. Having a positive performance in equities is warranted and the U.K. market is one that is benefiting from those developments.”

Jobs, Fed

A report from the ADP Research Institute today showed that U.S. companies added 130,000 workers in October, the smallest gain since April. The median forecast of 39 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted an advance of 150,000. Businesses hired a revised 145,000 people in September.

The Federal Open Market Committee meets for a second day to discuss monetary policy. The 16-day shutdown of the U.S. government earlier this month cut economic growth by 0.3 percentage points this quarter, according to a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The central bank will probably delay reducing its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases until March 2014, economists forecast in the survey. The Fed announces its decision at 2 p.m. in Washington.

Standard Life slid 4 percent to 354.5 pence. Scotland’s biggest insurer said sales of long-term savings products in the first nine months of the year rose to 17.3 billion pounds, falling short of projections for 17.4 billion pounds.

Pearson Plc dropped 3.6 percent to 1,316 pence. The publisher of Financial Times forecast that full-year operating profit excluding some items will fall from the 2012 level because of a weak North American market for college textbooks.

Barclays Profit

Barclays advanced 0.9 percent to 268.45 pence. Third-quarter pretax profit, excluding gains and losses on the bank’s own debt, fell 26 percent to 1.39 billion pounds ($2.2 billion), the lender said. That matched the median estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Next rallied 4.7 percent to 5,450 pence, its highest price since at least 1988. The U.K.’s second-largest clothing retailer predicted that full-year brand sales may increase by as much as

3.75 percent, having previously anticipated an increase of as much as 3.5 percent. The company said full-year profit before tax will be as much as 680 million pounds ($1.1 billion), up from a previous forecast of as much as 675 million pounds. Next also reported third-quarter sales that beat estimates.

Marks & Spencer Group Plc rose 1.6 percent to 493.2 pence. The Financial Times reported Britain’s largest clothing retailer has slowed a drop in its share of the clothing market.

African Barrick Gold Plc jumped 16 percent to 197.2 pence, its highest price since April 10. Third-quarter gold output rose 11 percent and full-year production will exceed a 600,000-ounce target, the company said. The performance may lead to upgrades by analysts, Liberum Capital Ltd. said.

Lookers Plc rallied 2.9 percent to 130 pence. The car dealer said 2013 results will be significantly better than analysts’ estimates.