Source - SMW
Underperforming housebuilders were starting to drag the FTSE 100 into the red at lunchtime.

Persimmon (PSN) was among the biggest fallers, down 2.3% to £25.90. Barratt Development (BDEV) and Berkeley (BKG) followed the housebuilder lower, declining 1.8% and 1%, respectively. 

The FTSE 100 was flat at 7,499 around midday.

UK unemployment was 4.3%, down from 4.8% a year earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Brent crude oil increased 0.7% to $63.78 per barrel. Gold and copper were flat at $1,240 per ounce and $3 per pound, respectively.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

Overnight, the Dow Jones closed 0.5% higher at 24,505 thanks to optimism over tax reform legislation and ahead of an expected interest rate hike.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Tourism specialist TUI (TUI) beat its 10% underlying earnings target, delivering 12% growth to €1,102m in the year to 30 September. The strong performance was driven by its hotel and cruise brands. The shares nudged 1% lower to £13.95 after an initial rise.

Equipment rental company Ashtead (AHT) fell 4.5% to £19.67 after chief executive Geoff Drabble sold 941,940 shares in the business. Other members of Ashtead's board also took profit by selling shares.

Electrical retailer Dixons Carphone (DC.) maintained its full year dividend and announced decisive action to help its mobile phone business. Investors overlooked a 65.9% drop in profit to £46m in the six months to 31 October as the shares were up 6.4% to 178.1p.

Cigarette seller British American Tobacco (BATS) drifted 0.6% lower to £50.11 despite a strong performance. The company  said it expects to grow market share thanks to its global drive brands.

Energy services company Wood Group (WG.) reported the integration of Amec Foster Wheeler was progressing ahead of schedule, resulting in sustainable cost savings. The business warned the oil and gas market continued to present challenges in 2017, causing the shares to slip 5.2% to 643.5p.

Embattled support services firm Carillion (CLLN) proposed to dispose its UK healthcare facilities management business to FTSE 250 constituent Serco (SRP). The market was on-board with the idea as the stock advanced 0.5% to 17.5p.

There was more good news for Serco, which upgraded profit guidance for 2017 as underlying trading profit will hit the top end of its £65m to £70m guidance range. The stock jumped 6.6% to 101.7p.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

A profit warning from window maker Safestyle (SFE) caused the shares to crash 17.7% to 157.4p. The company said demand for its products weakened since its last profit warning in September as sales were 6.8% lower in the quarter to 30 November than the prior year.

Materials technology specialist Zotefoams (ZTF) entered a strategic partnership with Nike to develop footwear technology and supply materials for the global footwear company. Investors were excited by the news as the stock soared 14.4% to 459.2p.

Shares in behavioural health service provider Cambian (CMBN) reversed 12.2% to 168.2p after it was notified of footage from three of its facilities, which allegedly reveal 'inadequate levels of care and education.'