UK stocks are falling on Thursday in a cautious market as US-China trade tensions intensified after the US declared a national emergency to protect the country's computer networks from "foreign adversaries", while ex-dividends also weighed. At 08:58, the benchmark FTSE 100 was 0.21% lower, or 15.20 points, at 7,281.75. Thomas Cook plummeted 16.83% after it said it expected lower earnings in the second half of the year due to "continued competitive pressure" from consumer uncertainty. This came after it reported an increased loss in underlying earnings amid a "challenging" first half, adding it was currently assessing multiple bids received for its airline business. Pensions provider Just Group dropped 7.63% after it reported a sharp fall in first-quarter new business sales as a "temporary reduction" in defined benefit activity saw retirement income sales slump. UK fashion brand Burberry lost 4.31% as it announced a share buyback after reporting a rise in pre-tax profits as its transformation programme started to take shape. National Grid edged 0.29% lower as it reported an 18% drop in its annual operating profit, largely due to major storm costs in the US, as it said it expected asset growth of around 7% in the near term. Anglo American bucked the trend to gain 1.64% as it said De Beers had approved plans to construct a new custom-built diamond recovery vessel in Namibia. As did cybersecurity company Sophos, which climbed 12.06% after it reported a healthy increase in both profit and revenue, primarily driven by increased subscription revenue, despite experiencing a "challenging" year. Premier Oil also gained, climbing 6.51% after announcing it had increased its full-year production guidance to 75,000-80,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day as "very high" group operating efficiency and a late contribution from now-sold Pakistan assets led to higher-than-expected production. 3i Group edged 0.38% lower even as it delivered an increase in annual returns that beat its medium-term expectations underpinned by growth in its private equity portfolio. Countryside Properties lost 1.37% despite hiking its dividend as the UK home builder sold more lower-priced homes in the North and Midlands. Residential landlord Grainger added 1.16% after it reported a rise in pre-tax profits as it increased rents and completed new housing developments. Lloyds Banking Group edged 0.024% higher after it said it would move to paying quarterly dividends - from half-yearly currently - from the first quarter of 2020.
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