House-builders were on the front foot today following a reassuring update from Berkeley Group (BKG) which followed yesterday’s positive update from Redrow (RDW).

Utilities and financials were the main drag on the index, with the FTSE 100 off just seven points at 7,268 while the FTSE 250 was off five points at 19,944.

Markets were generally quiet, awaiting the US non-farm payrolls data, due to be released at 1.30pm. Released on the first Friday of every month, the payrolls data is seen as a key barometer of the health of the economy and widely watched by global investors.

RESULTS MOSTLY POSITIVE

In its trading statement, Berkeley Group (BKG) said that for the period from 1 May 2019 to 31 August 2019 pricing had remained stable and forward sales remained above £1.8bn while the wider market remained constrained by an uncertain macro environment. Berkeley shares gained 1.7% to £39.37.

In the FTSE 250, emerging-markets fund manager Ashmore (ASHM) reported a strong rise in annual pre-tax profits bolstered by gains in its portfolios and net inflows.

For the year ending 30 June pre-tax profit rose 15% to £220m and adjusted net revenue grew 11%, driven by a 17% increase in net management fees and performance fees of £2.8m. The market rewarded shareholders with a 2.4% rise in the shares to 466p.

A trading update and first quarter results from pub group Greene King (GNK) showed that for the 18 weeks to 1 September like-for-like sales fell 1.8%, with the Pub Company unit reporting like-for-like growth of 1.5% while Pub Partners posted a 4.2% decline  for the first 16 weeks due to softer beer sales. The shares were flat at 840p.

The company, famous for its IPA beers, agreed a buyout deal last month with Honk Kong-based property firm CKA which will see shareholders receive 850p per share.

Specialist non-life insurance provider Randall & Quilter (RQIH) saw its shares jump almost 10% to 171p after it booked a large rise in first-half profit as its returns were boosted by acquisitions and an improved investment performance.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through June jumped to £33.1m, up from £5.5m on-year. The company declared an interim dividend of 3.8p per share, up from 3.6p on-year.

Shares in building materials supplier SIG (SHI) dropped 5% to 123p after it booked a 73% drop in first-half profit owing to lower sales, one-off restructuring costs and asset write-downs.

Underlying earnings, excluding all the one-off costs, rose thanks to improved margins. The company held its dividend at 1.25p per share.

Mining services provider Weir (WEIR) said it had won a £100m order to provide energy-saving solutions to the Iron Bridge magnetite project in Australia.

The $2.6bn project was a joint venture between Fortescue Metals and Formosa Steel, located 145 kilometres south of Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia state. The market welcomed the news, pushing the shares up 1% to £15.01.

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Issue Date: 06 Sep 2019