London markets make modest declines in early trade on Wednesday ahead the Federal Reserve’s announcement on interest rates across the pond and news of slowing UK economic growth data. The first quarter report from the Office for National Statistics reveals gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% between January and March, down from 0.6% in the fourth quarter.
The FTSE 100 index responds by dipping around 10 points lower, or 0.2%, to 6,272, a move tracked by the UK's smaller companies. Midcaps, however, buck the downward trend, the FTSE 250 rising 0.4% to 17,011.
In corporate news, payments processor Worldpay (WPG) trades near the summit of the FTSE 100 leader board after analysts at UBS upgrade the stock from 'neutral' to 'buy'. Worldpay's exposure to online transactions and investments in new value-added services mean it should be able to grow faster than rivals, says a research note from the investment bank. Shares in Worldpay gain 2.5% to 265p.
Banking group Barclays (BARC) is also in demand despite posting a 25% first quarter slump in pre-tax profit to £793 million. It blames the tepid performance in its investment banking division. But investors look beyond the headline numbers, noting good early progress with the bank's cost-reduction and restructuring strategy. The shares gain 2.85% to 178.9p.
US E&P Rose Petroleum (ROSE:AIM) wilts 16.8% to 0.175p as it announces steps to weather the current downturn in commodity prices. The company is switching focus from its Mancos acreage in Utah to the neighbouring Paradox asset.
Polythene products manufacturer British Polythene Industries (BPI) surges 8% to 735p after saying first quarter trading has been ahead of expectations due to lower energy costs and favourable foreign exchange. The group has completed the sale of its Chinese subsidiary, which will result in a £8.7 million cash inflow in 2016 and reduce net debt.
Beleaguered enterprise cloud business Outsourcery (OUT:AIM) jumps 65% to 6p after it reaches a deal with main lender Vodafone (VOD) to the terms of a new conditional drawdown working capital facility. That will ease the short-term cash crunch facing the company but will not address its more fundamental growth issues, which you can read about here.
TETRA communications company Sepura (SEPU:AIM) slumps 16% to 78p as it tells the markets to expect record revenues of €191 million, a 45% jump year-on-year, a fraction off expectations of €193 million. However, talk of a possible cash crunch leaves investors cold.
A material increase in oil prices is lighting a fire under the share prices of those heavily indebted oil firms which are particularly leveraged to crude. Premier Oil (PMO) gains 5.2% to 71p and EnQuest (ENQ) 5% to 36.5p.
Chinese coal bed methane (CBM) play Green Dragon Gas (GDG) climbs 2.3% to 265p as its prelims reveal a maiden profit of $82,000. The company is targeting a 33% increase in annual gas production to 16 billion cubic feet per day.
Giant observation wheel designer and investor Challenger Acquisitions (CHAL:AIM) falls 4.7% to 27.8p on news of the start date for its Jakarta wheel project has been delayed until mid-2016. The company made a loss of £2.6 million last year as administrative expenses far exceeded the £926,000 of revenue it got from the the New York Wheel Project, which will tail off this year. The group says it's 'cautiously optimistic' that operations will be cash flow positive in 2016.
Toy company Character (CCT:AIM) gains 2% to 522.5p on a 12% increase in revenue to £65.2 million in the six months to 29 February, with underlying pre-tax profit 22.9% higher at £8.6 million. It says its new range of Teletubbies toys, launched in January, has become a stand-out performer and it will soon launch products based on 1970s action figure Stretch Armstrong. The interim dividend has been lifted by 40% to 7p per share.
A four-fold rise in pre-tax losses to £16.4 million in 2015 fails to offset the scrapping of the dividend at social care provider Cambian (CMBN). That knocks the shares 10% lower to 68p. Rising costs as management try to grow the business was a factor.