UK stocks hit the skids for the second session straight on Thursday as euro land economic issues, a new oil slump and mixed corporate updates leave investors cold. London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index nudges 32 points, or 0.4%, lower to 6,828, having hit 6,871.80 on Tuesday, its highest close since early September 2014.
Midcaps manage a softer slide, the FTSE 250 around 33 points off at 16,539. UK investors are also looking ahead to the Bank of England's interest rate call at noon, which may provide further trading stimulus one way or the other for equities.
Data showing US oil supplies at a record high lead to renewed weakness in oil prices and see a widespread retreat in the oil and gas sector, led by BG (BG.), down 2.7% to 906.7p and Tullow Oil (TLW), 3.4% off at 382.6p. WTI crude slides 1.4% to $47.76/bbl, while Brent remains 1.6% off at 53.31/bbl.
The big news from the UK corporate world is undoubtedly BT's (BT.A) return to mobile for the first time in 14 years as it confirms the long-mooted £12.5 billion deal to buy EE, the combined UK mobile operations of T-Mobile and Orange. The deal will hand BT the UK's largest 4G spectrum network and mobile customer base, but the shares' 4.8% rally to 443.3p, to head the Footsie leader board, is also down to a smaller than expected £1 billion fund raising to pay for the deal. A cash call of up to double that amount was widely anticipated by analysts.
Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) rises 1.7% to £15.02 as it secures the sale of its 7.9% share in Danish cancer-focused therapeutics developer Genmab (GEN:COP). The non-core business was sold to various institutions in a £194 million deal.
However, it's a different story for UK rival AstraZenca (AZN), which leads the Footsie fallers down 2.9% to £45.50, as core full year 2014 earnings per share fall 8%. Revenue totalled $26 million, a modest 3% growth during the year. The UK’s second largest drug-maker also announces that it is spending an initial $600 million buying Actavis’ (ACT:NYSE) North American branded respiratory drug business.
Embattled Tesco (TSCO) cheapens 1.95p to 227.6p on news the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) is investigating the grocer over concerns it breached the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.
Electronics distributor Premier Farnell (PFL) sheds 10.6% to 150p on a ‘slightly disappointing update’, according to analysts at N+1 Singer. Chief executive Laurenece Bain flags slower-than-expected benefits from cost saving initiatives and foreign exchange volatility as headwinds.
Sector peer Electrocomponents (ECM) is also hit by negative investor sentiment to the sector, falling 2.8% to 203p.
Catering giant Compass (CPG) adds 1.6% to £11.64 on a 5.7% increase in organic revenue for the three months to 31 December. US growth and an earlier-than-expected return of demand in Europe and Japan are tipping the scales in the group's favour. Management says its pipeline of new contracts is encouraging but it notes the uncertain economic environment in some of its markets.
Pubs operator Enterprise Inns (ETI) edges down 0.6% to 108.5p after reporting like-for-like net income growth of just 0.3% for its leased and tenanted estate in the 18 weeks to 31 January. The momentum has deteriorated from 2.7% in the third quarter and 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2014, which is concerning given the licensed trade has enjoyed its best Christmas for a long time.
Among the market's bigger movers, Pressure Technologies (PRES:AIM) collapses 364% to 237.5p as weak oil prices force it to rethink full year targets. The £34 million has launched a group-wide review of prospects.
Impression moulds specialist Environmental Recycling Technologies (ENRT:AIM) shoots more than 11% higher to 0.53p on granting a non-exclusive licence for its Powder Impression Moulding process to Earth Enterprises Inc.
Gas storage and exploration play InfraStrata (INFA:AIM) slumps 13% to 4.13p on plans to raise £2.1 million via a placing and subscription of 52.5 million new shares at 4p each, a 16% discount to yesterday's 4.74p close.
Also tapping investors for fresh funding is satellites operator Avanti Communications (AVN:AIM), yet its shares jump more than 9% to 246.5p as it also unveils better-than-expected half-year losses of $48.1 million, and rising revenue, in the face of stiff forex headwinds. It aims to raise £60.6 million to secure full financing for its HYLAS 4 satellite.
Also in the tech space, another set of solid full year numbers fail to lift Malaysian data analytics suite supplier Fusionex (FXI:AIM). The running Shares Play of the Week saw revenues for the year to September jump 30% while the company puts up record earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) as its big data GIANT platform makes stellar progress. But the shares fade 1.3% to 385p, reflecting the 22% gains made in the month run-up to these figures.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber security vendor Corero Network Security (CNS:AIM) continues to struggle for new business, putting out another revenue alert that sparks a 23% collapse in the shares to 11.5p. The increasingly accident-prone microcap blames a slowdown in legacy product sales in the final quarter for the warning.
Private label toothpaste-to-shampoo provider McBride (MCB) is marked up 8.9% to 94.75p after posting dramatically improved first half profits, reflecting a UK restructuring and strong trading in Germany.