FTSE indices got off to an underwhelming start in an equities story repeated across Europe, but Wall Street and Asia firmed overnight. Miners are in northbound focus. Traders are looking to the US Federal Open Market Committee's statement at 7pm tonight.
The FTSE 100 index slips 15 points lower in early trade on Thursday to 6,215, while midcaps and smaller companies post similarly modest declines.
On the corporate news front, theme park operator Merlin Entertainments (MERL) loses 1% to 378.4p after reporting like-for-like revenue growth of just 0.3% in the 36 weeks to 5 September. Legoland performed well with a 6.7% increase in like-for-like revenue but this was offset by an 11.4% fall in the resort theme parks division, driven by the Smiler rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers and Euro weakness impacting visitor numbers to Merlin's London attractions.
Electronics component distributor Premier Farnell (PFL) sheds 12.9% to 116p on a 41% cut to its dividend, one of the key reasons investors hold the stock. Premier’s weak balance was a key consideration in the cut, according to chairman Val Gooding.
Energy services outfit Rotork (ROR) is the FTSE 350’s biggest faller, tumbling 16.1% to 181p as it downgrades full year revenue and profit expectations. Revenue is expected to be between £530 million to £555 million, down from £595 million in 2014 as cost rationalisation among its oil and gas customers start to bite.
Technology tiddler Crimson Tide (TIDE:AIM) leaps 15% to 2.13p as it snares a landmark contract for its mpro5 solution with one of the country's leading retailers. The contracted revenue is expected to amount to approximately £1.1 million over the 36 month term, a very decent slug of income considering that the company has struggled to drive revenuies m,uch beyond £1 million in each of the past five years.
CCTV techy IndigoVision (IND:AIM) slides 7% to 226.5p as it puts a troubled six months behind it in which it plunged into the red. The company chalked up half year losses of $0.92 million, from a year-ago profit of $1.67 million, after a challenging six months.
Microcap Crawshaw (CRAW:AIM) jumps more than 9% to 71.5p. The fresh meat and food-to-go retailer says it should beat forecasts for the year to next January after enjoying 'particularly strong' like-for-like sales growth trends twinned with strengthening margins.
Elsewhere, PVCu replacement windows and doors supplier Safestyle UK (SFE:AIM) cheapens 4.9% to 234p on profit-taking following a strong run. Robust interims reveal further turnover and market share gains, though there's also news full-year gross margins will be lower due to increased costs associated with new consumer financing products.
Oil services firm Hunting (HTG) dives 7.6% to 435.2p as JPMorgan downgrades its to underweight and slashes its price target from 518p to 338p.
Government contractor Serco (SRP) jumps 3.9% to 110p as analysts at a range of investment banks and brokerages update their financial models following yesterday’s £250 million sale of its private sector outsourcing business. Exane BNP Paribas is the most aggressive, moving to an ‘outperform’ rating and slapping a 140p price target on the stock.