London blue-chips take an early trading dip on an otherwise quiet Friday as investors tread cautiously ahead of some key economic data, including consumer price figures in the Eurozone and growth estimates in the US. The benchmark FTSE 100 is 28 points off, or 0.5%, at 6,779. Midcaps nudge off near multi-year highs, the FTSE 250 slipping 11 points lower to 16,348.
Crude oil is mildly firmer, but still below $50/bbl, once again acting as a drag on the majors, although miners put up decent resistance to the overall weaker trend led by Fresnillo's (FRES) 3% gain to 889.5p.
Corporate news today is dominated by UK telco BT (BT.A), which posts encouraging third quarter results, as flagged by Shares, but also less welcome news that its pensions black hole now tops £7 billion. The group has laid out a 16-year plan to cut its retirement commitments, including unveiling a £2 billion of immediate plug-the-hole funding. That news knocks the shares 1.9% lower to 420.9p as investors mull the extent to which this might tie the group's hands on future sports broadcast rights.
British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) sags 1% to 559.25p despite Qatar Airways buying a 9.99% stake in the group. Investors maybe be pondering whether this could spark a takeover of the UK-listed airline.
Luxury car dealer Inchcape (INCH) is in demand, bid up 6.5p to 701p on the appointment of Stefan Bomhard as CEO. Bomhard, who currently heads up spirits group Bacardi's European business, will hop into the hot seat and replace incumbent Andre Lacroix in April.
Among the bigger movers, big jump in revenue and profitability at small cap security outsourcer Newmark Security (NWT:AIM) drives shares 20% higher to 2.4p. Revenue rises 34% to £11.9 million and pre-exceptional profit almost doubles to £1.6 million for the six months to end-October.
Copper miner Weatherly International (WTI:AIM) rallies 20% to 1.05p on news that its Tschudi mine is well ahead of schedule, with first copper expected February. The crushing and processing plant is now in full operation and functioning effectively.
Oil explorer Magnolia Petroleum (MAGP:AIM) jumps 11.5% to 0.63p as it reveals the finds of an independent reserves report. The assessment shows total net proved, probable and possible reserves (3P) of 1,114 Mbbl of oil and condensate and 3,290 MMcf gas, up 27% and 29% respectively compared to 1 July 2014.
Chinese orange plantation owner Asian Citrus (ACHL:AIM) sours 3.5% to 6.88p as it slips out yet another profit warning. Half-year sales and profits will be down year-on-year due to weather-related crop damage, lower-than-expected winter crop prices, higher costs and a disappointing performance in the processed fruit business.
DekelOil (DKL:AIM), the operator and 51%-owner of a palm oil project in Ivory Coast (Shares link), cheapens 4.9% to 0.98p despite a largely positive operations update. The bad news is 2014 sales and earnings will miss targets due to lower volumes of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) collected in the fourth quarter.