UK stocks ease back from highs in early trade Monday as investors top slice profits after the FTSE 100 closed on Friday at a record-breaking 7,022.51. The blue-chip index slips around 20 points, or 0.3%, lower dipping just below the psychologically important 7,000 mark at 6,999.

Investors continue to flock to emerging market lender Standard Chartered (STAN) ahead of the new chief executive’s arrival. The shares improve 4.3% to £11.18 in early trading, topping the Footsie leader board. Going the other way is upmarket fashion retailer Burberry (BRBY), its 2.3% share price drift to £18.32 heading the blue-chip losers in early trade.

Sofas-to-carpets seller ScS (SCS) cheapens 5.6% to 209p as maiden interims following its return to the stockmarket reveal a widening loss. However, this reflects the first half weighting of advertising spend and investment in establishing concessions in House of Fraser, while there's also an upbeat outlook to keep investors happy.

Shares in payments provider Optimal Payments (OPAY:AIM) are suspended as it proposes a €1.1 billion reverse takeover deal with e-wallet and payment processer Skrill. Shareholders need to wait for a prospectus outlining the case for a £451 million rights issue, which will part fund the deal.

Among the bigger movers, drug developer Verona Pharma (VRP:AIM) leaps 17.6% to 3p on encouraging Phase I/II trials for its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment RPL554. There was no nausea reported from any patient taking the drug.

Drug delivery specialist Silence Therapeutics (SLN:AIM) rises 15.4% to 274.1p on generating positive safety data for the Phase IIa trials for its Atu027-I-02 study into treating pancreatic cancer.

Tenpin bowling operator Essenden (ESS:AIM) surges 13% to 81.5p on news it has received a preliminary approach from Harwood Capital regarding a possible acquisition of the company. Shares revealed the group was considering a business sale last week.

Small cap oil firms Egdon Resources (EDR:AIM) and Europa Oil & Gas (EOG:AIM) fall 15.2% to 7p and 11.9% to 6.5p respectively as their joint drilling on the Kiln Lane-1 well in Lincolnshire proves unsuccessful.

Elsewhere on the market, pollster and market research firm YouGov (YOU) gains 6.6% to 131.7p as it reports a 16% increase in adjusted operating profit to £3.3 million for the six months to 31 January 2015. The market may also be picking up on a positive outlook statement which flags trading as on track for the full year with a 'strong base' to deliver plans for organic growth over the next five years.

Non-life insurer Gable (GAH:AIM) climbs 4.6% to 45.5p on signing an agreement with Italian underwriter Movinsure to provide car insurance in Italy.

Online gaming operator GVC (GVC:AIM) gains 2% to 463p on a 217% increase in profit before tax to €41.3 million in 2014. Net gaming is up 32% to €225 million driven by a 25% increase in wagers and a slightly higher sports margin of 20 basis points to 9.8%. The board has raised the quarterly dividend from 12.5c to 14c and is also proposing a 1.5c special dividend.

DP Poland (DPP:AIM), the Domino's Pizza franchise, rises 2% to 24.5p on a 19% increase in like-for-like system sales and a 28% increase in group revenue to £3.8 million in 2014. Chairman Nicholas Donaldson says reaching group profitability will be a long journey but performance at its stores is improving.

After an earlier fall oil and gas sector disaster story Afren (AFR) actually ticks up 0.8% to 3.53p as it notifies the Serious Fraud Office of concerns over expenses payments following a review by its legal advisers Wilkie Farr & Gallagher. This may reflect some relief that this is a case of the company being as SP Angel put it 'whiter than white'.

Brickmaker Michelmersh (MBH) adds 3.6% to71.5p after the group's final results for the year to the end of December show turnover increases by 10% to £28.5 million. Operating profit doubles to £2.8 million and debt is halved. Michelmersh also announced the recommencement of its dividend payments with a 0.5p payment for the year.

Surface coatings specialist Hardide (HDD:AIM) advances 5.5% to 1.5p after the group announces a one-year extension on its contract to provide component coatings for General Electric (GE:NYSE).

Car parts-to-bicycles retailer Halfords (HFD) reverses 1.9p to 451.6p, as the appointment of Jill McDonald as new CEO fails to set investors' pulses racing. The McDonald's high-flier gets started on 11 May.

Cake, bread and muffin maker Finsbury Food (FIF:AIM) fattens up 5.76% to 73.5p after announcing a surge in interim pre-tax profit, with organic growth and efficiency gains supplemented by October's £56 million Fletchers acquisition. Shares outlined the firm's investment merits in ou recent Griller interview last month.

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Issue Date: 23 Mar 2015