Equities in the US appear to have steadied overnight, although the FTSE 100 is struggling to reach positive territory, dipping 0.1% to 7,522. A strong pound against the dollar, despite underwhelming UK manufacturing figures, held the index back. Sterling strength undermines the relative value of the overseas earnings which dominate the FTSE. Shares in BP (BP.) were up 1% at 506.2p despite poorly received results from its peer Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB). Brent crude oil was up 0.8% at $69.42 per barrel. UK manufacturing growth continued to slow, according to IHS Markit's latest data. The Purchasing Managers' Index fell from 56.2 in December to 55.3 in January. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed 0.1% higher overnight at 7,411. In Asia, Japan was a winner with Nikkei 225 rising 1.7% to 23,486 this morning. This was not the case for China and Hong Kong's indices, which were in the red. MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS The market wanted more from oil major Shell, which beat analysts' earnings forecasts in its fourth quarter. Following the recent rally in the oil price, investors wanted a stronger performance, causing the shares to slip 1.7% to £24.52. Consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR), behind brands such as Ben & Jerry's, delivered underlying sales growth of 3.5% in the last three months of 2017. The stock was flat at £40.01. Vodafone (VOD) was in track to meet annual profit forecasts, but the market focused on the negatives as sales fell 3.6% to €11.8bn in the quarter to 31 December. Its shares ticked 3.4% lower to 217p. Online grocer Ocado (OCDO) appointed Ocado Solutions CEO Luke Jensen as an executive director from 1 March, causing the stock to accelerate 3.6% to 521.6p. Building products supplier SIG (SHI) identified a 'historical overstatement of profit' in the year to 31 December and half year to 30 June 2017. Despite stating it will not affect underlying profitability for 2017, the shares dropped 6% to 152.9p. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Stellar Diamonds (STEL) announced a potential takeover by Newfield Resources is in the cards, prompting a 172.6% rally in the shares to 6.2p. An anticipated weak performance at RPS' (RPS) energy business dragged on the shares, down 7% to 271p. The consultancy firm said it planned to take an impairment charge of £40m. X-ray screening systems specialist Image Scan (IGE) announced the cancellation of an export order worth £1m would hit its full year results, triggering a 33% crash to 4.6p.
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