The dollar continued to weaken against sterling after comments from US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin that a weak dollar was 'good' for the US. This was bad for blue chips with big US earnings such as British American Tobacco (BATS) and Imperial Brands (IMB), down by approximately 2% apiece. Utility firms were also on the back foot, with United Utilities (UU.) and National Grid (NG.) dimming over 1%. Brent crude oil was up 0.4% at $70.79 per barrel. MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Pay-TV business Sky (SKY), currently in a protracted bid situation with 21st Century Fox, ticked 1.2% higher to £10.36 on a 5% increase in first half sales to £6.7bn and a jump in new customers. Frankie & Benny's owner The Restaurant Group (RTN) revealed it expects to meet profit expectations despite a 3% fall in like-for-like sales. The stock rose 5.3% to 278.4p. Investors were reassured by construction firm Kier's (KIE) trading update after the collapse of Carillion (CLLN) last week. The stock soared 15.3% to £11.04. The market was in profit-taking mode at Renishaw (RSW). The stock suffered a 14.5% fall to £48.20 following a strong set of half year results. Bad weather continued to affect pub operators with Greene King (GNK) the latest to report a drag on performance. It revealed slower sales around the Christmas period due to tough trading and the impact of snow and ice. Despite this, the shares fizzed 2% to 537.4p. Spreadbetter CMC Markets (CMCX) gained 2.4% to 161.8p, driven by a 33% increase in revenue in the third quarter to 31 December after the company focused on high value clients. Two planned acquisitions from Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) provided its shares with a 8.9% shot in the arm to £22.46. The veterinary firm said it plans to buy Netherlands-based AST Farma and Le Vet, based in Europe. Spirits specialist Diageo (DGE) revealed a 1.7% rise in half year sales, blaming foreign exchange rates, a later Chinese New Year and a ban on selling alcohol near Indian highways for the subdued growth. The stock retreated 0.2% to £25.37. Great Portland Estates (GPOR) announced it would return £306m to shareholders, but was flat at 647p. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC) smashed sales growth expectations over Christmas, helping the shares accelerate 3% to £70.80. London-focused estate agent Foxtons (FOXT) warned that profits will slide this year on the back of expected flat house price growth and a challenging trading environment. The company also reported a fall in core sales last year, but investors took the news in their stride with the stock up 2.8% at 76p. Positive Phase II data from Summit Therapeutics (SUMM) concerning its Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment excited investors as the shares catapulted 19.4% to 212p. Kimberly Enterprises (KBE) confirmed it would delist from AIM, triggering a 70% crash to 0.06p. Top-level domains owner Minds + Machines (MMX) rallied 18.3% to 9.5p on expectations that its full year earnings will beat expectations.
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