Major UK shares edged higher in early trading but gains modest as investors take a breather. The benchmark FTSE 100 inched less than four points higher, or 0.04%, to 7,079.25, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 was equally unenthusiastic, up a miniscule 0.08% at 22,925.64.
With little on the economic agenda apart from US job openings and trade figures, investors are keeping their powder dry until the US inflation figures later in the week.
Various blue-chips did their best to provide momentum with positive earnings updates from Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) and British American Tobacco (BATS), while insurer Aviva (AV.) gained after an activist investor built up a stake.
Wall Street had a mixed session overnight, with the Dow Jones falling 0.4%, the S&P 500 finishing just below flat and the Nasdaq Composite rising 0.5%.
Meme stocks GameStop and AMC Entertainment led a rally for the small cap index of the Russell 2000.
RECORD HIGHS FOR ASSET MANAGER
Intermediate Capital Group climbed 7% £23.13 to a record high, after the alternative asset manager posted a 19% jump in its annual third-party assets under management.
British American Tobacco gained 2.3% to £28.35, after it raised its annual revenue growth forecast to more than 5% at constant currency as the cigarette maker's focus on newer products like e-cigarettes and tobacco-heating devices pays off.
Aviva rose 3.5% to 424.25p after Europe’s largest activist investor Cevian revealed that it had built a 5% stake in the insurer. Cevian is pressing the FTSE 100 company to make deeper cost cuts and return £5 billion to shareholders.
Cocktail bar owner Nightcap (NGHT:AIM) jumped 18% to 27.19p on announcing that its bars had notched higher-than-expected sales since they reopened last month.
Nightcap's revenue for the three full weeks since the reopening of indoor hospitality, being 17 May to 6 June inclusive, grew 92% compared to the equivalent weeks in the 2019 calendar year.
Veterinary drugs company Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) added 2.3% to £42.50 on guiding for full-year revenue ahead of current market expectations.
Dechra cited a completion of a UK pre-Brexit inventory unwind and a further easing of lockdown restrictions for the upbeat forecast.
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE MARKET
High-tech product supplier Oxford Instruments (OXIG) nudged up less than 0.1% to £21.453 after it posted a 35% rise in annual profit, as sales edged higher and cost cutting helped fatten margins.
Oxford Instruments declared a full-year dividend of 17p per share, compared to zero payment year-on-year, comprising final and interim payouts of 12.9p and 4.1p, respectively.
Wagamama owner Restaurant Group (RTN) gained 2.3% to 132.8p following news that chairman Debbie Hewitt would stand down at the end of 2021 to become chairman of the English Football Association.
Restaurant Group said it had commenced a formal process to recruit a successor, led by senior director Graham Clemett.
Specialist lender Paragon Banking (PAG) ascended 4.0% to 532.5p, having reported a 69% rise in first-half profit, buoyed by an improved interest margin and lower loan provision losses.
Paragon Banking declared an interim dividend of 7.2p per share, up from zero payout year-on-year. The interim dividend was 50% of 2020's final dividend, in line with company policy.
Property portal OnTheMarket (OTMP) rallied 7.6% to 112.95p as it swung to its first ever full-year profit after it boosted sales and trimmed costs.
OnTheMarket's pre-tax profit for the year through January amounted to £1.14 million, compared to year-on-year losses of £11.7 million. Revenue rose 22% to £23.0 million.
Payments group PCI-PAL (PCIP:AIM) climbed 6.2% to 94p as it upgraded is annual guidance, following a rise in revenue it said had eaten into expected losses.
Language services group RWS (RWS) fell 6.2% to 604.5p, having posted a 7% fall in first-half profit, partly owing to acquisition costs, though its underlying performance improved and it hiked its dividend 14% to 2p per share.
Media technology provider Amino Technologies (AMO) firmed 2.7% to 153p on guiding for first-half revenue 'significantly' ahead of the prior year.