Recruiters typically call the economic trends long before the statisticians, which is why today’s bullish update from Page is another boost for improving stock market confidence.
The FTSE 250-listed company, which generates around 15% of its business through placing staff in the UK, said there had a been a noticeable improvement in activity in March.
Gross profit was down 13% and 10% in January and February respectively but rose by 31% in March, with the figure only 2% lower on the equivalent month in 2019.
Countries hit hard by Covid-19, including Germany and Italy, still managed records for the month, while the UK’s profit decline improved to 11% from 34% lower the previous quarter.
It’s still too early to say for certain whether this is the beginning of a sustainable trend, but the update adds more weight to evidence of the pandemic recovery, particularly after last Friday’s blockbuster employment figures in the United States.
The economic optimism has helped to push stock markets sharply higher in recent days, with the S&P 500 closing at a record on Wall Street last night and the FTSE 100 index back near the 7,000 threshold for the first time since February last year.
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The top flight gave up some gains today, with investors taking profits in the commodities sector to leave Glencore and Anglo American 2% lower and BP down 4p to 294.45p.
Despite gains of more than 1% for JD Sports Fashion and Next ahead of the re-opening of non-essential shops, the FTSE 100 index fell back 18.48 points to 6,923.98.
The domestic-focused FTSE 250 index was 5.77 points lower at 22,241.35 as a 10% jump for shares Page Group following its first quarter trading update helped the benchmark to stay close to the record high set yesterday.
Page shares rose to a two-year high of 552.5p, while fellow recruitment firms Hays and Robert Walters improved 5.5p to 163.7p and 22p to 614p respectively.
Among other FTSE 250 stocks, Avon Rubber continued its recent strong run after the provider of respiratory and ballistic protection for the world’s militaries and first responders stuck by City forecasts for the year. Shares rose 34p to 3,466p.
Royal Navy contractor Babcock International was the biggest faller in the FTSE 250 index after the Financial Times reported that the company was preparing to announce a further write down on the value of its assets. Shares tumbled 8% or 19.9p to 217.1p.
Babcock’s services span marine, nuclear, land and aviation, with sites including Devonport Royal Dockyard, the Clyde Naval Base and many Army and RAF land and air bases.
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