Value hunters are quickly chased out of UK markets after a promising opening to Thursday trade, with leading indices extending a four-day losing streak. Confidence is not being helped by overnight falls on Wall Street and ongoing crude price pressure.
The benchmark FTSE 100 index slides 0.3% lower to 6,374, led by a 3.6% fall to £28.27 by Imperial Tobacco (IMP), the biggest Footsie fallers in early deals. The mid caps are doing nearly as badly, the FTSE 250 index off 0.2% to 15,841. WTI crude s down 1.7% to $47.65 a barrel, while Brent remains 2.4% off at $47.51.
FTSE 100 oil explorer Tullow Oil (TLW) falls 1.9% to 351p as it announces plans to cut 2,000 staff in response to the lower oil price and announces its largest ever write-off of $2.7 billion before tax thanks to unsuccessful exploration and the impact of the collapse in crude. The company slashes 2015 exploration spending by 30% to $200 million.
But trying its best to halt today's declines is credit checker Experian (EXPN). Its shares rally 3.9% to £11.06, heading the Footsie leader board, on a solid third quarter trading update. Revenues grew around 2% at constant exchange rates and chief executive Brian Cassin says top-line growth should accelerate in the fourth quarter.
Foods-to-fashions conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF) gains 2.2% to £31.03 on news budget clothing chain Primark's sales accelerated over Christmas. This more than offsets gloomy commentary on the sugar business and news sterling strength will impact group-level full-year earnings per share.
Argos-to-Homebase owner Home Retail (HOME) is marked down 6.7% to 197.8p as Christmas trading disappoints. Third quarter sales at both chains fell short of consensus, with 'the shape of Argos' sales' over peak impacted by 'Black Friday' discounting, leaving Argos same-store sales flat.
Elsewhere, embattled mother and baby products purveyor Mothercare (MTC) perks up 2p to 175p on a reassuring third quarter and festive missive. Q3 trading was in-line with expectations, highlighting more stable UK margins as a result of reduced promotions and rising full-priced sales.
Lavendon (LVD), Europe's largest equipment rental outfit, reports a 6% increase in rental revenue, positive free cash flow and strong returns on capital in a full year trading update. Shares gain 3.7% to 171p.
Oil services minnow Enteq Upstream (NTQ:AIM) warns on profits sending its shares down 25.6% to 13.6p. The company is seeing reduced demand from its North American customer base following the fall in oil prices and now expects numbers for the year to 31 March to be significantly below current expectations and those reported in 2014. The company highlights its $14 million of cash.
But going the other way is data technology developer Arria NLG (NLG:AIM). It has announced a new framework agreement with a major insurance company. Arria's newest client is one of the largest general insurers in Canada and a wholly-owned subsidiary of a global multinational insurance company. It rose 12.5% to 22.5p.
Shipments of its TriDef 3D consumer solutions the 50 million mark boosting DDD Group (DDD:AIM). The ramp-up comes mainly from a 20% year-on-year hike in 3D TV chip shipments during 2014. The shares jump 11% to 3.75p.
Promotional products specialist and Shares Tip for 2015 4imprint (FOUR) gains 1.2% to 830.5p as it announces underlying pre-tax profits will be 'slightly' above market expectations. Full year numbers are due on 4 March.
Car dealer Cambria Automobiles (CAMB:AIM) accelerates 9.3% to 53p as a positive trading statement triggers profit upgrades. The running Shares Play of the Week flags a strong first four months of the year, with new car sales outperforming the market, and says trading is tracking ahead of full-year market expectations.
Decontamination and disease control specialist Bioquell (BQE) falls 5.4% to 86p on a £1.9 million impairment hit in 2014. A focus on higher-margin products led to earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) meeting expectations, despite revenues falling.
Women's value fashion retailer Bonmarche (BON:AIM) rises 6p (2%) to 307.5p on a better-than-expected third quarter trading update. One of Shares fifteen key picks for the New Year, Bonmarche's like-for-like sales grew 5.8% in the key Christmas quarter, though high street promotions meant margins were under pressure.
AGA Rangemaster (AGA) warms up 2.6% to 108.75p as it says it will refocus on core cooker and refrigeration brands and has appointed Rothschild to explore options for its Grange furniture and Fired Earth tile businesses.