Uncertainty around future monetary policy in the US dogs London markets in early trade on Thursday after the Federal Reserve showed it was wary of raising rates too soon. That gives investors pause for thought and strips away any firm direction for equity traders. In early deals the benchmark FTSE 100 index is roughly flat, off just 4 points at 6,894, while the midcap FTSE 250 index manages a modest 24 point gain, or 1.4%, to 17,023. Wall St was mixed overnight.
Energy supplier and British Gas-owner Centrica (CNA) heads the Footsie loser board on Thursday as it is forced into a dramatic dividends rethink in the face of slumping oil and gas prices. Future payouts are being slashed by 30% with significant pressure on earnings, an issue raised by Shares just last week. That sparks a more than 9% collapse in the £12.7 billion group's shares to 255p.
WTI crude is down 3.2% to $50.45/bbl, while Brent falls 1.9% to $59.36/bbl. Oil stocks feel the pinch of falling prices, with several populating the loser board, including Tullow Oil (TLW) shedding 2.8% to 397.65p, while BG (BG.) and Petrofac (PFC) also fade.
Tin cans manufacturer Rexam (REX) makes a strong run higher, up 5% to 564.75p, after increasing full year pre-tax profit from £339 million to £343 million. But more importantly, the group also announces that it is recommending a 407p per share cash offer, plus stock, by US giant Ball Corp (BLL:NYSE). The total deal value adds up to 628p per share, explaining today's spike.
Among the bigger movers, Tengri Resources (TEN:AIM) says of the 13 drill holes at its 100%-owned Taldybulak Project, 12 intersected significant sheeted-vein style gold mineralisation from or near the surface. These drillholes returned a weighted average grade of 1.66 g/t Au and 0.28 % Cu, calculated using a 1 g/t AuEq(i) cut-off. Its shares soar 62% to 4.25p.
Caza Oil & Gas (CAZA) crashes 13.4% to 7.25p on obtaining a US$4 million loan as an initial tranche of a US$5 million facility under a convertible unsecured note agreement with YA Global Master SPV, an investment fund managed by Yorkville Advisors LLC and Global Market Neutral Strategies SICAV
Amid wider weakness in the sector as oil prices fall on forecasts for a big build in US crude oil supplies, Kazakh producer Jupiter Energy (JPRL:AIM) stands out with a 25% slump to 14p as it announces it will shut in all of its output from March 2015 until further notice in response to the collapse in crude.
Elsewhere in the news, solid figures from defence contractor BAE Systems (BAE) fails to excite investors. The group reports underlying EBITA of £1.7 billionm, down from £1.9 billion, on £16.6 billion sales, around 9% lower.
AstraZeneca (AZN), the UK’s second largest drug-maker, falls 2.2% to £43.86 as investors take profits following a slight rally in the shares on Tuesday.
Billionaire Mike Ashley's Sports Direct (SPD) is bid 12p (1.75%) higher to 698.5p after reiterating full-year EBITDA guidance of at least £360 million. This more than offsets a worse-than-forecast third quarter trading update, with sales impacted by a disappointing winter sports season across Europe.
Boss Steve Lewis' surprise exit sends shares in Majestic Wine (MJW:AIM), a disappointing Christmas performer that has incurred a series of downgrades, up 5.5p to 335.5p. A Majestic man through and through, Lewis steps down as chief executive with immediate effect after six years in the hot seat. Numbers man Nigel Alldritt is filling in as interim CEO until a permanent boss is found.