U.K. Stocks Are Little Changed as Standard Life Increases

U.K. stocks were little changed, ending at a two-week high, as Standard Life Plc surged while Lloyds Banking Group Plc dropped.

Standard Life jumped 7 percent after its investment arm agreed to buy Ignis Asset Management Ltd. SSE Plc gained 1.3 percent after the second-biggest energy supplier to U.K. households said it will separate its retail and wholesale units and sell assets. Lloyds lost 4.9 percent as the U.K. government sold a stake in its second disposal since the lender’s rescue.

The FTSE 100 Index added 0.41 point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 6,605.3 at the close of trading in London after gaining as much as 0.6 percent earlier. The gauge rallied 1.3 percent yesterday as data showed U.S. consumer confidence rose more than forecast. The broader FTSE All-Share Index climbed 0.1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index advanced 1.1 percent.

“Investors are confident about the global economy, especially the euro-area and the U.S.,” said John Plassard, vice president at Mirabaud Securities LLP in Geneva. “Draghi’s comments also support sentiment that the ECB will continue to support the economy.”

The European Central Bank’s accommodative monetary policy should be increasingly felt throughout the euro-region economy as disruptions in the financial system wane, President Mario Draghi said in a speech in Paris yesterday, adding that the central bank stands ready to take additional policy measures to maintain price stability.

U.S. Data

In the U.S., a report showed that durable-goods orders increased 2.2 percent in February, following a revised 1.3 percent retreat the previous month. That compares with the 0.8 percent gain economists had forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. Orders for U.S. business equipment fell 1.3 percent after a 0.8 percent gain in January.

The volume of shares changing hands in FTSE 100-listed companies was 64 percent greater than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Standard Life jumped 7 percent to 400 pence, the most since May. The insurer’s investment unit agreed to buy Ignis from Phoenix Group Holdings for 390 million pounds ($645 million), gaining 59 billion pounds of funds.

SSE gained 1.3 percent to 1,518 pence. The company said it will split its retail and wholesale units, freeze power and gas prices, and dispose of 1 billion pounds in assets over the next two years. SSE will also cut about 500 jobs as part of annual savings of about 100 million pounds by March 2016, it said. Regulator Ofgem said this week it will publish a report this month on the state of competition in the market.

RSA Gains

RSA Insurance Group Plc added 3.9 percent to 87.8 pence. The insurer is seeking a buyer for its Lithuanian unit valued at about 100 million euros ($138 million), eVersus reported, without saying where it got the information.

William Hill Plc climbed 2.8 percent to 348.7 pence. HSBC Holdings Plc raised the stock to overweight, the equivalent of a buy, from under weight. The bank said the prospect of further regulatory change has now been priced in to the shares, and the company’s online operations are growing. William Hill slumped 16 percent this year through yesterday as the company recorded a 13 million-pound loss January.

Lloyds declined 4.9 percent to 75.2 pence. The U.K. government sold a 4.2 billion-pound stake for 75.5 pence a share, 4.6 percent less than yesterday’s close, according to a statement by U.K. Financial Investments Ltd., which oversees the government’s stake in the bank. The sale cuts the U.K.’s stake in Lloyds to less than 25 percent from 33 percent.

Enquest Plc plunged 12 percent to 127.4 pence after the oil and gas producer further delayed the start of a North Sea field. The company expects to start operations at the Alma/Galia field in the second half of the year, compared with a previous forecast of mid-2014 and an initial target of early 2014.

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