UK stocks edged higher in early trading on Wednesday as any optimism generated by another batch of positive earnings updates was offset by concerns about the spreading Delta coronavirus variant.

At 08.15am, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 4.28 points, or less than 0.1%, at 7,185.39.

The modest rise came after the release of inflation data, with the UK's consumer price index up 2.0% in July, missing expectations of a 2.3% increase.

House builder Persimmon (PSN) shed 0.3% to £28.60, even as it posted a 64% surge in first-half profit to £480 million after an easing of Covid-19 restrictions allowed it to complete more homes.

Persimmon declared first-half dividends of 235p per share, up from 110p year-on-year, and reaffirmed guidance for around 10% growth in home completions this year.

Infrastructure group Balfour Beatty (BBY) fell 3.3% to 308.6p despite returning to profitability in the first half as it continued to recover from the pandemic.

Balfour Beatty declared an interim dividend of 3p per share, up 43% on the corresponding pre-pandemic dividend for 2019. It also raised margin targets for its support business to 6-8%.

Resources company Hochschild Mining (HOC) rose 2.2% to 154.78p, having reported improved first-half profit as a jump in production amid rising commodity prices bolstered revenue.

Hochschild Mining said it expected to announce an interim dividend by the end of the month.

PAYMENTS RALLY BACK  

Payments group Network International (NETW) climbed 0.6% to 354.6p as it swung to a first-half profit after it processed more transactions and hosted a higher number of cards.

German business park investor Sirius Real Estate (SRE) firmed 1.7% to 123.9p after it notarised or completed the acquisition of four business parks and one land parcel for a combined €84.8 million.

Industrial flow equipment manufacturer Rotork (ROR) gained 1.0% to 338.4p as it launched a £50 million share buyback.

Diagnostics group Novacyt (NCYT:AIM) jumped 11% to 335.94p on announcing that its first-half revenue had jumped 50%, underpinned by demand for its Covid-19 tests.

Novacyt reiterated full-year revenue guidance of €100 million, excluding sales from the UK's Department of Health and Social Care.

Oil company SDX Energy (SDX:AIM) sank 14% to 12.5p after an exploration well in Egypt failed to find gas.

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Issue Date: 18 Aug 2021