London’s FTSE 100 eases back 18.4 points to 7,264 on Wednesday, with new Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell’s hawkish appearance in front of Congress on Tuesday dragging the Dow Jones back below 25500, before sparking losses in Asia and having a negative impact on the European indices.
In corporate news, Cardiff-headquartered motor insurer Admiral (ADM) advances 35.5p or 1.8% to £19.67 after reporting a record, forecast-busting 43% surge in profit before tax to £405.4m and hikes the full year dividend 11% to 114p.
‘It's 25 years since the launch of Admiral,’ says CEO David Stevens. ‘2016 was only the second year we'd ever reported a year on year fall in profits. So it's great to be back in the groove, with a 23rd year of "record profits".'
Elsewhere in the blue chip ranks, wealth manager St. James’s Place (STJ) skips 40.5p (3.6%) higher to £11.66 as full year figures reveal a 36% rise in operating profit to £918.5m, as market gains and strong inflows of client cash boosted total assets to a record high.
Broadcaster ITV (ITV) cheapens 7.8% to 159.75p on disappointing full year results, the first under new CEO Carolyn McCall. Investors are focused on a 5% drop in adjusted EBITA (earnings, before interest, taxation and amortisation) to £842m, reflecting a tough advertising environment. And while the full year dividend is increased 8% to 7.8p, there's no special dividend for the first time in five years.
Also taking a tumble is Taylor Wimpey (TW.), marked down 5% to 184.2p with investors irked by a 5.8% drop in 2017 profits to £555.3m caused by the housebuilder having to set aside £130m to cover last year’s leasehold scandal.
Building materials supplier Travis Perkins (TPK) slumps 9% to £13.07 after posting a 10% drop in adjusted profit before tax to £343m for 2017. CEO John Carter expects ‘the mixed market backdrop will continue’ and warns that ‘as a result, we will be focusing capital investment behind our key priorities, and slowing investments elsewhere.'
Struggling windows and doors retailer Safestyle UK (SFE:AIM) crashes 24.3% lower to 115p after issuing yet another profit warning. Sales and profits for 2018 are now expected to be ‘materially below 2017 levels and current market expectations’, with orders in the new year to date disappointing amid declining consumer confidence and also impacted by ‘the activities of an aggressive new market entrant’.
Investors have an appetite for sausage skins maker Devro (DVO), sizzling 4.4% higher at 203.5p following yesterday’s encouraging annual results showing market share gains and cost cutting progress; Peter Page steps down as CEO today, to be succeeded by numbers man Rutger Helbing.