UK stocks nudged higher in early trading on Tuesday as firmer commodity prices boosted mining and oil plays.

By 8.40 am, the FTSE 100 index was up 0.2% at 7,121.2 points, while the FTSE 250 traded 0.4% to the good at 23,836.5 points.

Major movers included mining titan BHP (BHP), which added 1.3% to £23.37, as well as oil giant BP (BP.), bid up 0.8% to 297.3p.

Investor sentiment was boosted by a strong showing on Wall Street and a steady performance from Asian stocks overnight, although concerns over the spread of the infectious Delta variant tempered gains.

All eyes are on the Jackson Hole meeting at the end of the week, with the markets looking for clues as to what central bankers will do next on financial stimulus and interest rates.

COMPANY NEWS

On a fairly quiet day for corporate news, energy sector consulting and engineering company Wood Group (WG.) cheapened 3.9% to 224.5p as it posted a first half net loss caused by declining revenue and a higher tax bill, though its operating profit improved due to lower write-downs.

Looking forward, Wood said it expects to return to growth in the second half, citing an order book up 18% in the year-to-date.

Consumer gift packaging business IG Design (IGR:AIM) cheapened 1% to 517p, despite flagging a ‘good’ start to the year with sales up 25% in the four months to July.

The shares came under pressure as the company also warned it is experiencing ‘challenging cost headwinds, particularly in relation to sea freight, as well as regional operational disruption relating to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the logistics functions within the company’s global supply chain’.

Looking forward, IG Design said its order book for the year ‘continues to be ahead of prior year, underpinning a full year sales outlook ahead of expectations, and as a result the full year forecast earnings remain in line with current market expectations’.

Precision measurement group Spectris (SXS) gained 0.7% to £38.86 following news it has agreed to sell its NDC Technologies business to Nordson Corporation for $180 million (£130 million).

Spectris said the proceeds will be used to strengthen its balance sheet ‘and then be deployed in accordance with our capital allocation policy’.

Clinical-stage biotherapeutics company PureTech Health (PRTC) shed 1.7% to 328p, having swung to a first half loss as it continued to invest in the development of treatments for various diseases.

PureTech’s pre-tax losses for the six months to June amounted to $94.9 million, versus a profit of $174.5 million a year earlier.

SMALL CAP MOVERS

Aquaculture biotechnology business Benchmark (BMK:AIM) improved 3.3% to 62p on news of a strong third quarter performance with adjusted EBITDA more than doubled.

CEO Trond Williksen insisted there is ‘good momentum in the business following the streamlining exercise conducted in 2020 and the adoption of a new commercial focus. Our end markets are gradually recovering from the impact of Covid-19, creating a positive environment for our business.’

Elsewhere, consultancy firm Science Group (SAG:AIM) fell 1.3% to 466p on news it had increased its takeover bid for engineering company TP to 6.5p per share, up from 5.8p, but had been rejected by TP’s board yet again.

Science Group said it won’t raise its bid again, but it has upped its stake in TP to 18% and pledged to hold its shareholding with an ‘active engagement strategy’. Shares in TP fell 5% to 5.75p.

Pharmaceutical services group Open Orphan (ORPH:AIM) surged 17% higher to 24.25p after winning an £8.1 million contract from a ‘major global pharmaceutical company’ to test an inhaled human rhinovirus antiviral product.

Financial services firm Frenkel Topping (FEN:AIM) firmed 2.1% to 71.5p on the back of news that it has formed a joint venture with law firm Pattinson Brewer.

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Issue Date: 24 Aug 2021