UK stocks reversed their opening gains on Tuesday as renewed weakness in US technology shares outweighed a slew of positive corporate earnings updates.
At midday the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 6 points or 0.1% to 5,931, after shares in US tech giants Apple and Tesla were indicated sharply lower for a third day after Monday’s market holiday. Nasdaq 100 futures were indicated 2% lower, compounding losses of more than 6% over last Thursday and Friday's sessions.
Packaging company DS Smith (SMDS) was the biggest gainer on the blue-chip index, rising 7% to 292p after announcing that it expected to declare an interim dividend amid an improvement in its like-for-like corrugated box volume performance.
Close behind was sports fashion retailer JD Sports (JD.), climbing 6.9% to 775p having reinstated full-year guidance following an improved performance since its stores re-opened.
JD Sports, which posted a slump in first-half profit, said it expected to notch a headline pre-tax profit for the full year of at least £265m, well above the £165m consensus analyst forecast.
Information services company Experian (EXPN) firmed 2% to £28.59 having upgraded its outlook on second-quarter performance following stronger trading in July and August.
Industrial equipment hire company Ashtead (AHT) also gained 2% to £267.47 despite posting a 38% slump in first-quarter profit amid a 7% fall in revenue and guiding for a fall in annual revenue in mid-to-high single digit percentage terms.
Outside the FTSE, Royal Mail (RMG) rallied 19% to 208p after it upgraded its annual revenue expectations as the Covid-19 crisis drove a spike in demand for parcels.
At the same time, Royal Mail warned poor letter volumes and increased costs meant it would still post a 'material' loss this year.
The company said it would not become profitable without 'substantial' change to a business it said still had outdated working practices, with too many parcels sorted by hand.
Animal genetics company Genus (GNS) added 5% to £37.41 having upped its dividend 5% after reporting a rise in profit, led by its porcine business.
Tonic water purveyor Fevertree (FEVR:AIM) slipped 1.9% to £20.80 as it booked a 38% drop in first-half profit to £21.7m.
It wasn't all bad news for Fevetree investors however, with the company deciding to up its dividend by 4% to 5.41p share amid growth in off-trade and US revenues.
Aviation services provider Signature Aviation (SIG) descended 3% to 262p as it swung to a first-half loss and scrapped its dividend after the pandemic grounded many of its clients' aircraft.
On a more upbeat note, Signature said it expected to post a better performance in the second half amid a recovery in flight activity.
House builder Vistry (VTY) shed 4% to 609p as it also posted a first-half loss after lockdowns hit construction markets, though it said production levels were now back to near normal levels.
Vistry said it expected to achieve a pre-tax profit for the full year of £130m-to-£140m.
Budget airline EasyJet (EZJ) dived 6% to 590p as it cut its capacity guidance for the fourth quarter following the introduction of new Covid-19 quarantine measures in Europe.
Component supplier to the aerospace, defence and energy sectors Meggitt (MGGT) slid 7% to 279p as it swung to a first-half loss after the Covid-19 crisis devastated the commercial airline sector.
Meggitt said it had decided not to pay an interim dividend in order to retain cash, manage net debt levels and preserve flexibility.
Builders' merchant Travis Perkins (TPK) dropped 8.3% to £11.18 after it swung to a first-half loss and scrapped its dividend following a slump in construction activity caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
The company confirmed that the demerger of its Wickes DIY business had been paused until markets become more stable and predictable.