Disappointing UK manufacturing data could not hold sterling back as it rose 0.3% against the dollar, undermining the relative value of the overseas earnings which dominate the FTSE. 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. Among the fallers was oil major Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB), down 2.5% to £24.32. Shell beat analysts' earnings forecasts in its fourth quarter but investors wanted a stronger performance on the back of the recent oil price rally. Utilities were also in the firing line, with SSE (SSE), British Gas owner Centrica (CNA) and Severn Trent (SVT) falling by up to 2.2%. The FTSE 100 closed 0.6% lower at 7,490. Brent crude oil rose 0.4% to $69.16 per barrel. OVERSEAS MARKETS On Thursday, Wall Street was looking more upbeat with the S&P 500 up 0.2% at 2,828. MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS A pensions and pay breakthrough for Royal Mail (RMG) pushed the shares 5.7% higher to 496.3p. Financial technology firm NEX (NXG) was up 7.7% at 639p following a 3% jump in sales in the third quarter to 31 December. 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 £40.32. Vodafone (VOD) was on 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 fell 4.5% to 214.4p. Online grocer Ocado (OCDO) appointed Ocado Solutions CEO Luke Jensen as an executive director from 1 March, causing the stock to accelerate 3% to 518.6p. 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 4.2% to 155.8p. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Stellar Diamonds (STEL) announced a potential takeover by Newfield Resources is in the cards, prompting a 144% rally in the shares to 5.6p. An anticipated weak performance at RPS' (RPS) energy business dragged on the shares, down 11.3% to 258.5p. 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 34.8% crash to 4.4p.
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