London's FTSE 100 index begins to slide having opened largely flat in early trade. The UK benchmark drifts 60 points lower, roughly 0.9%, to 6,394 on Thursday, partly fuelled by hefty falls from resources stocks and and BT (BT.A) offsetting gains across the financials space, with insurance firm St Jame's Place (STJ) the Footsie's biggest riser.
The life insurer and wealth manager advances 2% to 701.5p as strong inflows boost funds under management 11% in the nine months to October. That's partly down to strong ISA demand after the government raised the tax-free allowance limit to £15,000.
The banking sector is led by Barclays (BARC), up 0.5% to 221.7p, as it unveils third-quarter adjusted pre-tax profit well ahead of forecast at £3.7 million. A tight reign on costs helps, although another £670 million has been held aside to cover potential fines from a Serious Fraud Office probe into rigging forex markets, and PPI mis-selling.
The Footsie's biggest faller in early trade is UK telco BT, despite reporting second-quarter earnings above market forecasts thanks to strong fibre broadband and its sports channels. That helps BT post operating profits of £1.45 billion, up 1%, despite sales declining 2%. The market remains concerned about marketing and sports rights acquisition costs ahead, with the next Premier League football broadcast auction likely to kick-off early in 2015, as flagged by Shares.
Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) slips 1.3% to £22.835 as investors shrug off a bigger-than-expected 31% jump in third-quarter earnings to $5.8 billion. The market is more interested in news that chairman Jorma Ollila will step down after nine years.
Flailing supermarkets giant Tesco (TSCO) cheapens 2.2p to 171.15p. Yesterday's news the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is stepping aside to enable the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to probe its accounting practices continues to unnerve investors.
Energy efficient products play Entu (ENTU:AIM) sparks up from a 100p issue price to 104.5p in debut AIM trading. The home improvement products specialist joins the junior market to boost brand awareness and help fund acquisitions. Shares recently highlighted the lure of entu's 8% dividend yield and scope for significant market share gains.
A £130 million investment by Royal Mail (RMG) in hand-held technology designed to improve customer deliveries is given a lukewarm reception by investors. Shares in the part state-owned business are among the biggest fallers on the blue chip index, trading 1.4% cheaper at 431p.
Kurdistan oil explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) is up 15.3% to 73.5p – building on a strong advance yesterday afternoon. Investors are taking a delay to today's planned trading update to 13 November (to allow talks with the Kurdistan Regional Government) as a sign the company may get paid for its crude oil exports from the Shaikan field. Elsewhere, a field development plan for its Akri-Bijeel project (also in Kurdistan) is announced today.
Russian oil and gas play Urals Energy (UEN:AIM) advances 25% to 5p on news – announced late Wednesday – that chief executive officer Alexei Maximov will step down tomorrow (31 Oct). The company also says that Leonid Dyachenko and Aleksey Ogarev intend to stand down as directors once appropriate replacements have been identified and appointed and adds it is in discussions with its largest shareholder Adler Impex (44%) about the appointment of two new directors.
Estate agency Countrywide (CWD) rises 4.1% to 469.5p as it reveals record results this year, despite a slowing housing market. Third quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) improves 38% to £40.2 million year-on-year.
The old Redstone enterprise IT support business Castleton Technology (CTP:AIM) has tapped investors for £5.5 million to buy £4 million housing software supplier Documotive. That sparks a 10% jump in the shares to 1.42p. Management were forced to issue statement on 28 Oct denying knowledge of why the shares had rocketed nearly 70% in three days.
Redde (REDD:AIM) trades up 2p higher at 74.5p, a rise of 2.8%, on a positive AGM statement. Profits in the three months to end-October have exceeded management expectations, chairwoman Avril Palmer-Baunack confirms.