FTSE 100 inches up as investors assess Powell's comments; Hiscox gains

FILE PHOTO: A worker shelters from the rain as he passes the London Stock Exchange in London

By Johann M Cherian and Shristi Achar A

(Reuters) -Britain's FTSE 100 edged up on Wednesday as investors parsed comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, while insurer Hiscox rose on better-than-expected full-year results.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 ended up 0.1% while the mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 0.5%.

Powell said that Fed officials have not yet made a call on the size of the rate increase they are almost certain to deliver at their upcoming policy meeting.

"There has been a close eye on what Jerome Powell has been saying to Congress and because he's come out and said 'we have not yet made a decision on rates', that has gone some way to assuage fears that is not a done deal," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"That has a knock-on effects because the FTSE 100 is an outwardly facing index."

Global equities were in a grim mood on Wednesday following Powell's remark that the Fed will likely need to raise rates more than expected in response to recent strong U.S. data, with fresh better-than-expected U.S. employment reports adding to those concerns. [MKTS/GLOB]

Meanwhile, Bank of England rate-setter Swati Dhingra said it would be prudent not to raise interest rates further, as previous increases in borrowing costs have yet to feed through into an already weak economy.

Among major movers, Hiscox jumped 5.2% following a rise in underwriting profit, despite posting a 76.5% plunge in full-year profit.

Some other insurers, however, fell following downbeat results.

Admiral Group Plc slid 4.1% after the firm cut its full-year dividend and its annual profit missed estimates.

Legal & General Group Plc fell 1.6% after operating profit at its asset management division declined 19% in 2022.

The FTSE 350 non-life insurance sector was down 0.3%.

Quilter Plc rose 3.3%, after the fund manager's net-inflows rose on an annual basis.

Restaurant Group slumped 15.4% after the Wagamama-owner said it would slash the number of Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito restaurants by about 30%.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza, Uttaresh Venkateshwaran and Mark Heinrich)