Thursday, March 7: The FTSE 100(-0.53%) faded with many blue chip stocks going ex-dividend following four consecutive days of market gains. The European Central Bank pushed out the timing of its first post-crisis hike until 2020 at the earliest and offering banks a new round of cheap loans to help revive the eurozone economy. The move came as the US Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world are also holding fire on rate hikes. Previous guidance indicated that rates would remain at record low levels through the Summer, but now are expected to run through the end of 2019. The ECB launched a third Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operation(TLTRO III) consisting of two-year loans aimed at helping banks roll over €720bn in existing TLTROs, and avoiding a credit squeeze which could exacerbate the current economic slowdown. The ECB now projects euro zone growth at a lowly 1.1% this year, compared to the 1.7% projected in December.
NMC Health(-7.68%) fell intraday despite reporting a rise in PBT last year on increased revenues, and a bullish outlook for the year ahead. The private healthcare & medicine distribution company noted PBT at $256.9m, up from $210.4m last year as revenue rose 28% to $2.06bn, ahead of previous guidance of 24% growth. The primary driver of which was the Healthcare division, with revenue growth of 34% and EBITDA 37.3% higher on year. The Middle East focused business backed its 2019 outlook of revenue growth between 22% & 24%, with one-year EBITDA growth of 18-20%.
At the close European equities were lower, with the FTSE 100 -0.53%, the CAC 40 -0.44% and the DAX 30 -0.67%.