UK shares start early trade Wednesday on a modest back foot despite rampant gains across the pond overnight. The S&P 500 closed up 29.18 points higher, or 1.44%, at 2,050.03, while the Dow's rally was even stronger, adding 305.36 points (1.76%) to finish the session at 17,666.40, just 2.2% off its all-time 18,053.71 record.
In contrast to US enthusiasm the FTSE 100 index drifts 11 point to 6,860 on a mixture of profit-taking, retreating oil prices and little in the way of corporate news to excite the bulls. However, satellite pay-TV broadcaster Sky (SKY) does make a strong start as it posts it highest customer recruitment numbers in nine years. With half-year pre-tax more than doubling to £1.06 billion, plus a host of useful gains on disposals, the shares rally 1.6% to 958.5p, heading the Footsie leader board and hitting a 15-year high.
Also on the up are drugs giants Astrazeneca (AZN) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), both roughly 1% higher at £47.005 and £14.74, while Morrisons (MRW) captains supermarkets with a 0.6% gain to 187.1p. Far East-based bank Standard Chartered (STAN) leads financials with a 1.6% gain to 929.8p.
Going the other way is stock broker Hargreaves Lansdowne (HL.), the day's biggest blue-chip faller, despite robust interims showing record £49 billion assets under administration (AuA) and client numbers growing steadily. However, investors seem miffed by a veiled threat of 'detrimental uncertainty' posed by the upcoming UK general election in May, while ongoing low interest rates on client cash and reduced fund platform charges weigh on profitability, dragging the shares nearly 5% lower to 993.5p.
Investors shrug-off a 30% hike in traffic in the month of January by Irish airline Ryanair (RYA), although the shares have rallied 16% in three months. The budget carrier announces that it had carried 5.98 million passengers last month, compared to 4.6 million a year earlier, but the shares sag 0.9% to €9.88.
UK tool rental business HSS Hire (HSS) makes a slow start to life on the stock market, opening slightly down on its 210p IPO price, which valued the business at £325 million. Shares on its first day of trading are changing hands for around 200p.
Among the bigger movers, Hunter Resources (HUN:AIM) is encouraged by results from its recent exploration programme at Pampamali, its high-grade gold, silver and base metal project in Peru. That sparks the shares to a 37% jump to 1.2p.
Solo Oil (SOLO:AIM) slumps more than 8% to 0.48p as it taps investors for £700,000 through a 140 million share placing despite the narrow 5% discount. The fresh funds will be used for working capital on projects in both Tanzania and here in the UK.
In the software space, recruitment market supplier Dillistone (DSG:AIM) pleases with news that the implied growth slowdown has had limited impact. The company reckons 2014 full year figures will largely match the £7.1 million revenue, and underlying £1.7 million operating profit posted in 2013. Order intake up 20% in the last quarter was another plus, sparking a 16% jump in the shares to 105p.
Luxury interior furnishings firm Walker Greenbank (WGB:AIM) rises 4.5p (2.3%) at 200p on a strong full-year trading update. CEO John Sach pleases with news pre-tax profit for the year to end-January will weigh in at the top end of analysts' forecasts, so £8.5 million, on sales 6.4% ahead at £83 million.
Chinese outdoor clothing and footwear distributor Camkids (CAMK:AIM) cheapens another 6.7% to 14p after warning annual profits will fall 12.5% short of forecasts given order cancellations due to reduced consumer spending in the Peoples' Republic.
Publishing and events business Future (FUTR) has made a solid and encouraging start to 2015, stating that trading is on track. But more importantly perhaps is word that positive trends in the fourth quarter last year have continued, aided by the largely completed transformational plan. The shares rise 3.5% to 1.25p.
Storage firm Lok'nStore (LOK:AIM) moves 3% higher to 248.5p as it reports strong half-year results. Revenues are up 15.9% on the year, while unit occupancy was up 5.5% and price per let square foot rose 6.7% on the year.