The FTSE 100 struggled for direction on Tuesday as inflation levels continued to accelerate in the US, with the blue chip benchmark ending the session pretty much flat at 7,124.72 points.

By 4.30pm UK time the S&P 500 index in the US was up 0.1% at 4,390.52.

The CPI print of 0.9% for June was very much stronger than expectations of a 0.5% advance, leaving the Federal Reserve’s repeated assertions that America’s inflationary pressures would fizzle out looking increasingly wide of the mark and heightening investors’ concerns over rate rises to come.

In London, an early boost from the Bank of England’s go-ahead to banks that they can start to dole out dividend payments again faded with NatWest (NWG) finishing 2.7% lower at 201.2p, Barclays (BARC) cheapening 1.5% to 170.2p, Lloyds (LLOY) off 0.8% at 47p and HSBC (HSBA) losing 1.5p to end at 411.4p.

Elsewhere within the FTSE 100 ranks, silver and gold miner Fresnillo (FRES) firmed 3.1% to 815p, while UK commercial property firm British Land (BLND) finished 1.6% lower at 512p despite news of a notable improvement in activity across its businesses since the lifting of lockdowns.

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

Newspaper wholesaler Smiths News (SNWS) rallied 6.8% to 45.5p as it upgraded its annual profit expectations, citing a stabilisation in sales of newspapers and magazines.

Smiths News said trading for the year through 28 August would be ‘ahead of market expectations’ amid a ‘strong’ operational performance in the 43 weeks to 26 June.

Upmarket chocolate retailer Hotel Chocolat (HOTC:AIM) climbed 3% to 385p, having upgraded annual guidance after sales grew 34% in the 10 weeks through 27 June, compared with the same pre-pandemic period.

Hotel Chocolat now anticipated underlying pre-tax profit higher than its previous expectations, with revenue expected to be up 24% higher than the same pre-pandemic period in 2019, and 21% higher than in 2020.

Kitchens and joinery products maker Howden Joinery (HWDN) climbed 3.6% to 883p, announcing that its first-half performance exceeded its expectations, with full-year revenue expected to grow.

Annual revenue for 2021 was seen rising to almost £785 million, up from £465.0 million last year and £652.6 million in 2019, and pre-tax profit at around £300 million.

SMALLER COMPANY WRAP

Media investment analysis specialist Ebiquity (EBQ:AIM) was bid up 8.5% to 57.5p on news of positive first half trading, sales of £32 million coming in 19% ahead of the previous year thanks to new business wins and a recovery in demand from existing clients.

Disease test kit supplier Omega Diagnostics (ODX:AIM) edged 2.1% higher to 48.5p despite posting a full-year loss, citing a fall in demand for allergy testing that it pinned on the pandemic.

Omega said it expected to see demand in the health and nutrition business continue to improve this year, though Covid-19 testing revenue was very much dependent on UK government decisions.

Computer and power component supplier Solid State (SOLI:AIM) slid 7.5% to 925p, even as it hiked its dividend 28% after it booked a 5% rise in annual profit, owing to stronger margins that offset weaker sales.

Industrial chain and power product manufacturer Renold (RNO:AIM) rose 2% to 23p on news it has won a contract for the supply of flexible couplings for the second batch of the Royal Navy’s Type 26 future frigate.

Pharmaceutical company Clinigen (CLIN:AIM) shed 1% to 620p after reporting a fall in core earnings as the pandemic impact weighed on demand.

On the positive side, Clinigen said it anticipated a return to double-digit growth in the current financial year.

Oil company Serica Energy (SQZ:AIM) firmed 3.2% to 154p on announcing that it achieved successful flow test results from the Columbus development well in the North Sea.

Pub and restaurant ordering device group Vianet (VNET:AIM) rose 2.4% to 106.5p on announcing that profit in the first three months of its financial year was ‘higher than anticipated’.

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Issue Date: 13 Jul 2021