Weakness in miners after disappointing Chinese economic data plus a downbeat start to trading in the US helped drag the FTSE 100 lower this afternoon. By the close the index was down just slightly at 7,414.42. Zoopla-owner ZPG (ZPG) was reported by Sky News to have made a 110p per share bid for price comparison site GoCompare (GOCO). Shares in the latter were up 9.4% to 101.5p in response while ZPG traded 0.3% lower at 335.5p. There was good news for the housebuilding sector as average house prices in the UK rose 5.7% to £243,945 in the year to 30 September. Mid-caps Bovis Homes (BVS) and McCarthy & Stone (MCS) revealed strong results, which had a positive read across for the FTSE 100 housebuilders. Berkeley (BKG) led the charge, up 2% to £36.69 followed by peers Persimmon (PSN) and Taylor Wimpey (TW.). Bovis Homes strengthened 2.8% to £11.36 on news that it was expected to deliver an increase in average selling prices for the year. Retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone was up 6.2% to 156.3p following an improvement in margins and volumes in the year to 31 August. MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Solid sales growth in Europe helped telecommunications firm Vodafone (VOD) upgrade its annual earnings forecast and pushed the stock 5.4% higher to 227.75p. UK supermarket Tesco (TSCO) rallied 6.2% to 187.9p on provisional unconditional clearance of its merger with Premier store chain owner Booker (BOK). Shares in broadcaster ITV (ITV) reversed 2.5% to 150.1p following a 1% drop in revenue in the first nine months of 2017. Insurer Aviva (AV.) announced the acquisition of Irish insurer Friends First Life Assurance for €130m, but this failed to spark the share price at 493.3p. Bus operator FirstGroup (FGP) failed to take off thanks to flat adjusted operating profit at £89.4m as hurricanes in North American cost approximately £6m by impacting contracts in Puerto Rico. Shares in FirstGroup reversed 5.8% to 103.5p. British Gas owner Centrica (CNA) expanded into Italy via a five-year partnership deal with Eni Gas E Luce. Investors took the news in its stride as the shares only advanced 0.3% to 165p. Industrial conglomerate Smiths (SMIN) reported a 2% fall in sales and reiterated guidance that it would return to growth in the year to 31 July 2018. This limited damage to the stock, down 1.5% to £14.85. Retailer B&M European Value (BME) was down 2.8% at 381.3p on a 22.5% fall in earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation to £5.9m in its Jawoll division. Healthcare firm BTG (BTG) was up 1.9% to 702p after reiterating its full year guidance and revealing product sales growth of 17% in the first half of the year. Investors were feeling optimistic about UBM (UBM) after the events organiser announced that it expected full year financial results 'at least' in line with expectations. Shares in the firm increased 3.8% at 746.5p on the news. Plastic piping manufacturer Polypipe (PLP) said strong organic growth in its UK residential systems and Mainland Europe division was helped by buoyant new housing activity and drove continued growth. The stock was marked 3.2% higher to 389.2p. News that IT infrastructure services provider Computacenter (CCC) would deliver financial results 'comfortably in excess of its previous expectations' pleased investors as the shares advanced 8.8% to £10.75. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Power transmission products supplier Renold (RNO) revealed issues in its chain division are being resolved and it saw 'distinct signs of improvement' in its end markets. The stock gained 2.1% to 47.75p. Equipment hire service Speedy Hire (SDY) accelerated 4.2% to 56.5p as adjusted pre-tax profit jumped 58.8% to £10.8m in the half year to 30 September. The company also hiked its dividend by 51.5% to 0.5p per share. There was bad news from Trifast (TRI) as gross margins are expected to fall from 31.6% in the six months to 30 September to 30.2%. Despite being slightly ahead of the company's 30% target, the stock shed 2.2% to 242.5p.
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