London markets barely move in early trading on Thursday as investors pay a cautious hand ahead of today's important European Central Bank (ECB) statement. Experts predict a new swathe of money printing will be unveiled by the ECB, perhaps worth up to €1 trillion, is another desperate attempt to halt eurozone stagflation and spark growth.
The FTSE 100 nudges just over 0.1% higher to 6,736, still a seven-week peak, while mid caps post similar gains, to 16,281.
WTI crude was down 0.96% to $47.32. Brent was down 0.5% to $48.78. Miners ticked higher as China's PM, Li Keqiang, said the country's economy was not headed for a hard landing. Anglo America (AAL) rose 1.8% to £11.42 to lead the China-sensitive metals burrowers, with Antofagasta (ANTO), Rio Tinto (RIO) and others behind. Oil issues were mildly positive as crude remained just below $50/bbl. Petrofac (PFC) led with a 2.2% rise to 670p, followed closely by Wood Group (WG.) and then others further off the pace.
Shares in Royal Mail (RMG) add 3.7% to 466.3p, heading the Footsie leader board, on the back of a relatively flat trading update which saw revenues in the nine months to the end of December edge 1% higher. The UK parcels business however outperformed with turnover up 3% in the period and during the crucial Christmas period, Royal Mail handled around 120 million parcels in December alone; 4% more than last year.
Science kit designer Oxford Instruments (OXIG) crashes 29% to 782.5p after revealing that revenues will 'fall short of market expectations' thanks to tightening sanctions against Russia and a slower recovery from Japan. Cost cuts will follow to address the problems but anticipated full year pre-tax profit of £35 million will miss consensus £45 million hopes by miles.
Regular bulletin board feature and mobile payments network Monitise (MONI:AIM) stuns the market by effectively putting itself up for sale. The company, that has never made a profit, has launched a strategic review for the business after ongoing operating performance struggles, with revenues likely to be flat this year as opposed to the 25%-plus growth expected. That news hammers the shares by more than 11%, the stock trading at 17.75p in early deals Thursday, striking a five-year low.
Gaming software developer Playtech (PTEC) jumps 5.8% to 689.5p after saying full year revenue and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) will be 'comfortably in line' with the latest market consensus - namely a 23% rise in revenue to €451.8 million and a 28% increase in EBITDA to €204.1 million.
Online casino company 32Red (TTR:AIM) jumps 9% to 45p on a 26% rise in 2014 net gaming revenue to £31.1 million, marking the fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth. Early trading in 2015 has been strong with revenue in the first 20 days of January up 31% on the corresponding period in 2014.
Marketing agency Cello (CLL:AIM) slides 4.7% to 91p as it confirms 2014 results in line with expectations but warns on a potential VAT liability of between £1-£2 million. The issue arises after it emerged one of its subsidiaries may not have been charging VAT on certain items to its charity clients appropriately.
Technology suppliers on the up include escrow and cyber security business NCC (NCC) (up 2.5% to 205p) and logistics software minnow Pennant (rising more than 7% to 89.5p), all on bullish trading updates or impressive results.
Positive momentum continues in Scotgold Resources (SGZ:AIM), extending yesterday's gain with a further 26% hike to 0.85p. Investors like news (21 Jan) of a resource upgrade at its gold project in Scotland which has increased by 201% in size to 248,000 ounces of gold. It's small but very high grade.
Drug developer ImmuPharma (IMM:AIM) is one of London’s largest risers leaping 20.4% to 59p on working with clinical researcher Simbec-Orion to take autoimmune disease treatment Lupuzor through phase III trials.
Value gifts-to-greeting cards seller Card Factory (CARD) cheapens 5.5% to 260.5p as a slowdown in like-for-like sales over the 11 months to December, as well as news Christmas trading was 'solid' rather than spectacular, prompts some profit-taking after a strong run.
Tonic water-to-ginger ale supplier Fevertree Drinks (FEVR:AIM) jumps 7.7% to 214.38p on an update pre-close trading update. Buoyed by strong Christmas trading and growth in all regions, full year sales are expected to come in at £34.7 million, near-50% year-on-year growth and well ahead of expectations.
Home shopping-to-education supplies business Findel (FDL) firms 3.4% to 211p on a positive third quarter trading statement, highlighting sales and operating margin progress. This offsets surprise news CEO Roger Siddle, the driving force behind Findel's impressive turnaround, is leaving at the end of the financial year after four and a half years at the helm.