The FTSE 100 gave back early gains on Thursday lunchtime despite a number of positive earnings updates, as investors digested weak US markets overnight.

Markets are also braced for a slew of economic news scheduled for today including US third-quarter GDP numbers and a briefing from European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde.

In addition investors are expecting earnings updates from Apple, Amazon, Google owner Alphabet and Facebook after the US market close this evening.

At 12:00 the FTSE 100 index was down 0.3% to 5,551 points.

CORPORATE NEWS

Shares in oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) climbed 1.4% to 878.7p after the firm announced a new cash allocation programme designed to cut debt and boost its dividend.

The company plans to increase its dividend for the third quarter of 2020 by 4% to 16.65 cents per share. It also plans to reduce its net debt position to $65 billion, down from $73.5 billion as of September 30, 2020.

High-street stalwart Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) said it expected its annual impairment charge to be at the lower end of its guidance range, after it reported Q3 pre-tax profit which rose to £1.04 billion. Shares gained 3% to 28.5p.

Global rival Standard Chartered (STAN) reported a 12% drop in income to $3.5 billion for the third quarter amid the continuing ultra-low interest rate environment.

Despite the bank hinting at a resumption of dividends early next year, the shares dropped 4.8% to 355.9p.

Shares in telecoms giant BT (BT.A) gained 1.7% to 103.4p after the company raised its guidance even as first-half earnings fell by a fifth.

For the six months to September, pre-tax profit fell 20% to just over £1 billion, as revenue fell 8% to £10.6 billion due to a pandemic-led reduction in BT Sport revenue and business activity

Media company WPP (WPP) recorded third-quarter revenue of just under £3 billion, down 9.8% compared to Q3 2019.

The result brought the company's total revenue for the first nine months of 2020 to £8.6 billion, down by 11.5% on the same period in 2019. Shares fell 2% to 603p.

Medical technology giant Smith & Nephew (SN.) reported third quarter revenue of $1.2 billion, down 4.2% year-on-year on an underlying basis but a significant improvement on the second quarter's underlying revenue fall of 29.3%. Shares were down 1.7% to £13.6.

Professional services firm RPS Group (RPS) reported a marginal increase in fee revenue in the third quarter compared to the second quarter amid 'pleasing signs of recovery'. Shares were unchanged at 50.5p.

Kaz Minerals (KAZ) raised its guidance for silver and zinc production and said all metals were on track to achieve or exceed full-year production guidance despite a slip in quarterly silver and gold output in the third quarter. Shares gained 0.25% to 630p.

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Issue Date: 29 Oct 2020