A rout in commodity stocks sees the FTSE 100 open narrowly lower in early trading, losing 0.25% to 6,735.
Premier Oil (PMO), Tullow Oil (TLW) and BP (BP.) are the biggest fallers among the FTSE 350 list, falling 3.8%, 3.7% and 3.1% respectively, as crude prices fall overnight. West Texas Intermediate is 0.6% weaker at $44.90 a barrel (£28.78) and Brent is down slightly.
Markets are also looking ahead to the Bank of England’s ‘Super Thursday’ data release where it will announce its interest rate decision, publish minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee’s voting decisions and also its quarterly inflation report.
Sterling is a little softer ahead of the announcement at $1.56 and the UK benchmark 10 year Gilt is steady at 1.97%.
In other news, the acquisition of Friends Life has boosted life insurer and wealth manager Aviva (AV.) in the first half of 2015. Operating profits grew 9% to £1.1 billion year-on-year, sending the shares 1.3% higher to 534.7p.
It was also a good six months to the end of June for life insurer Old Mutual (OML), which rises 2.8% to 224.7p on operating profits growing 19% to £904 million. Stronger figures in its Africa operations were the main driver, leading management hike the interim dividend 8% to 2.65p a share.
Trading profit at Aggreko (AGK) slips roughly one-fifth to £114 million in the six months to 30 June sending shares a touch lower to £11.81. Aggreko previously warned profit would be lower than expectations because of cuts in North American oil and gas budgets and instability in Yemen.
Defence contractor Cobham (COB) surges 7.9% higher to 283.3p after the group posted 26% rise in revenue to £1.05 billion in the six months to the end of June. Order intake at the £3.2 billion cap added 32% to £960 million in the half year.
Trading is restored in controversial outsourcer Quindell (QPP:AIM), which has been suspended since June 24, with shares opening 29% lower at 89.5p. Announcing results yesterday, Quindell restated the £82.7 million profit it declared in 2013 to a £67.7 million loss. Separately, the Serious Fraud Office has announced an investigation into the company’s accounting practices.
Pub group Enterprise Inns (ETI) rises 4.6% to 120p after reporting a 0.6% rise in like-for-like income for the 44 weeks to 1 August, with an eight consecutive quarter of growth in the third quarter despite tough comparisons from last year’s FIFA World Cup. The group says the execution of its strategic plan, which includes developing its managed pub business, is on track.
Wine specialist Majestic Wine (MJW:AIM) cheapens 3.62p to 448.13p on news of long-serving numbers man Nigel Alldritt’s replacement by James Crawford, finance director of recently-acquired Naked Wines.
The purchase of Italian dairy equipment specialist InterPuls pushes stock in Avon Rubber (AVON) 4.2% higher to 838.5p. InterPuls, which was bought for €29.75 million, has developed a product portfolio of high tech milking components, telemetry and software to improve milking performance & efficiency, which complements Avon’s current Milkrite products.
Fine English tableware-maker Portmeirion (PMP:AIM), a running Play of the Week, rises 2.75% to 935p on stellar interims driven by strong growth in the UK, USA and other export markets. Broker Panmure Gordon reiterates its 'buy' rating and upgrades its price target from £10 to £10.13.
Disclosure: William Cain, the author of the introduction, owns shares in BP.