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What happened in the stock market today

The FTSE 100 moved up a fraction Thursday, gaining 0.6% by mid-afternoon, with its smaller sibling, the FTSE 250, hardly moving with a gain of just 0.2%.

That’s against a background of weakening sterling, so it doesn’t reflect any real sentiment towards shares. And it come after hardly any movement on US markets yesterday, with the S&P 500 up 0.03% and the Nasdaq down 0.11%.

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Asian markets didn’t move much overnight either, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closing 1% down and the Japanese Nikkei up 0.38%. Maybe they’re waiting for the next round in the Trump vs China trade wars?

Meanwhile, UK company news is a bit thin on the ground at this time of year, but we’ve had a few snippets.

Panic on the streets?

The retail trade might be a disaster right now, at a time when Marks & Spencer‘s eviction from the FTSE 100 after 35 years in the top index has sent shivers down the spines of sector watchers. So far fashion chain Next has been bucking the trend, but first-half results sent the share price down a few percent.

Sales and profits were up, but bricks and mortar outlets weakened, with online sales up. Chief executive Lord Wolfson, one of our few pro-Brexit business leaders, reckons the firm will be able to cut prices should we depart with no deal — but I’ll be very surprised if he’s right.

IG Group shares picked up 9% during the morning after the online trading firm benefited from favourable market conditions in August. Q1 revenue was flat compared to a year ago, but up 11% on the average of the final three quarters of last year, which were reported under newer regulations.

An update from Diageo says the drinks giant expects full-year organic net sales growth of between 4% and 6%, in line with the firm’s medium-term targets. Diageo seems like a good defensive stock to me — when we finally get out of the EU, the Leavers will presumably drink to celebrate while the Remainers can take a commiserating tipple. But Brexit or not, I’ve always liked Diageo as a long-term investment, and still do.

The one that got away

Don’t you just hate it when a share you have your eye on gets snatched away? Just after Charles Taylor Consulting  makes my list of top 10 candidates for buying over the next few months, the professional insurance services firm announces that it’s agreed an all-cash buyout at 315p per share. I’d have bought for the long term, but I wouldn’t be crying too loudly over a quick 40% profit.

Saga shareholders enjoyed a good day too, seeing the value of their shares gaining 10% by early afternoon, on the day, the over-50s holiday firm reported a 50% slump in underlying pre-tax profit and a 64% leap in total net debt. It’s quite something when figures like that are not as bad as expected, but the company says its insurance business revamp is starting to pay off and it’s predicting a better second half. Despite the upbeat outlook, I’m still waiting until I see the recovery actually happen.

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Diageo. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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