London's FTSE 100 gave up an early banking stocks-driven gains to drift lower on Friday, as global companies cheapened due to a rise in the pound. Exporters including British American Tobacco, AstraZeneca and Diageo softened with the value of their US earnings set to fall due to a rise in sterling. At 11.40, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was off 7.6 points at 7,337.1. LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Lloyds and Barclays rose 3.7% to 54p and 4.3% to 155.1p respectively. Power utility SSE gained 1.2% to trade at £11.81 on the back of news that it had agreed to sell its retail energy business to OVO for £500m, including debt. Pub chain JD Wetherspoon eased off by 6p to £15.44 despite posting a rise in annual sales, though its underlying profit slipped as cost pressures dented margins. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Recruitment company SThree added 2.4% to trade at 300.5p, after it reported a 4% rise in third-quarter fee revenue, as a jump in contract and overseas revenue offset weakness for permanent positions, particularly in the UK. Online gambling services provider Gan surged 26.2% higher to 91.5p as growth in the budding US waging market helped it deliver record earnings. The company also said that although a formal sales process had attracted 'multiple' bids, none were considered high enough and it had decided to continue to go it alone. Toys, games and giftware distributor Character Group cheapened 9% to 338p on a full year profit warning blamed on disruption in Scandinavia and margin pressure caused by the weakening of the pound against the US dollar. Ukraine-focused Regal Petroleum was flat at 32.2p after it booked a 71% fall in first-half profit, owing to it reaping a one-off gain from an impairment reversal in the previous year. Revenue, however, rose 27% to $31.3m, and gross profit climbed to $13.9m, up from $11.9m.
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