Following another all-time high in US stocks overnight, UK markets build on yesterday’s gains with the FTSE 100 index up 0.1% to 7,450 points.
Underlying replacement cost profit was $2.4bn compared with $2.6bn a year ago and forecasts of $2.3bn. Selling prices and margins were down at the start of the quarter but higher volumes and a good performance from its trading arm helped to support the bottom line.
AIM-listed Regal Petroleum (RPT:AIM), one of last year’s best-performing small-cap stocks, reports a big jump in full year underlying profits thanks to higher prices and a more than 50% increase in production. Having traded sideways into the results, shares soar 12% to 49.5p.
Oil services firm Weir Group (WEIR) delivers a positive trading update for the first quarter which ought to bring relief to shareholders although the shares are 1% softer at £17.02 in line with the weaker market tone.
Lower orders in North American oil and gas, which had a bumper year in 2018, were offset by a better performance at the Minerals arm and ESCO, particularly in respect of orders for after-market parts.
Banking group Standard Chartered (STAN) reports a 10% increase in first quarter earnings and a share buyback of up to $1bn (£770m), its first in more than 20 years. Shares celebrate with a 4% rally to 697p.
Lower costs and better asset quality, which means lower provisions for bad loans, helped lift returns on tangible equity (RoTE, a key measure of bank profitability) by 1% to 9.7%. The bank has targeted a return of at least 10% by 2021 so is clearly well on target.
Packaging firm DS Smith (SMDS) issues an upbeat full year trading update confirming that margins continued to grow in the second half although there was some weakness in ‘certain export-led markets, including Germany’. Shares drift lower by 2% to 366p.
Miners are generally lower on the disappointing Chinese economic data but Glencore (GLEN) is bottom of the pile down 3% to 303p.
First quarter copper production was 7% lower than a year ago leading the company to cut its full year forecast. Meanwhile the company is being investigated by the US regulator for possible corruption in Nigeria and Venezuela.
Pubs group Greene King (GNK) reported strong Easter trading, especially at its Chef & Brewer eateries which saw sales up by 15%, but persistent worries over rising costs send the shares down 7% to 645p.
However softer like-for-like revenues at the core hotel business unsettled investors, pushing the shares down 4% to £45.80.