UK markets end the wee on the back foot as investors get spooked by renewed concerns about the spread of Ebola weigh on market sentiment following a doctor contracting the virus in New York. The benchmark FTSE 100 index is trading modestly lower in early trade on Friday, down 16.5 points, or roughly 0.3%, at wn 0.6% at 6,406, having closed at a two-week high 6,419 on Thursday.
Travel stocks come under moderate selling pressure on the back of Ebola fears, with Intercontinental Hotels (IHG) and TUI Travel (TUI) a touch in the red, although Thomas Cook (TCG) bucks the trend, inching 0.5p higher at 115.4p.
On the flip side, healthcare product distributors Essentra (ESNT) and Diploma (DPLM) are among the early risers. Investors are speculating that the pair may be beneficiaries from increased spending on drugs and medical equipment to combat the virus.
But publishing and education group Pearson (PSON) heads the Footsie loser board on Friday after revealing that it is losing its long-standing chief financial officer (CFO). Robin Freestone is to stepping down after 10 years at the Financial Times-owner, dragging 2.2% on the shares to £11.43. Pearson also reiterates profit guidance for the full year.
Telco BT (BT.A) is also hefty faller as the market looks ahead to next week's (30 Oct) half-year figures. The stock is 2.3% off at 368p with hefty sports content spending a worry, as flagged by Shares in yesterday's magazine.
Construction group Morgan Sindall (MGNS) is one of London's biggest faller s today, plunging more than 13% to 682p as warns on profits as the London housebuilding market slows. Some building projects have been delayed and projected costs are totting up to more than planned.
High street lender TSB (TSB), demerged from Lloyds (LLOY) in June, adds 1.5% to 263p, as third quarter pre-tax profits rise 31.6% to £41.6 million. Its balance sheet remains robust with its reserves covering 18.8% of its assets.
A mild warning from industrial kit maker Spectris (SXS) is ignored by the market, more pleased that trading is not as bad as perhaps feared given the 16% underperformance in the second quarter. The shares rally 3.6% to £17.05 despite an ongoing slump in capex investment globally squeezing the group.
Specialist retailer Pets at Home (PETS) perks up 3.1% to 177.35p, still 28% off its 245p float price, on a positive first half trading statement. The pet foods-to-veterinary practices company flags strong 4.2% like-for-like growth and gross margin improvements, leaving it on course to hit full-year forecasts. Shares highlighted Pets' attractive growth prospects in August.
Bulmers-to-Magners cider maker C&C (CCR) slumps 7.3% to 3.64 as the group confirms rejected approach for pubs group Spirit (SPRT). Investors are worried that the company could get drawn into an expensive takeover battle with rival Greene King (GNK).
Promotional marketing goods specialist 4Imprint (FOUR) jumps 10.5% to 760.5p on a very good third quarter trading period. FinnCap analyst Guy Hewett says he expects to upgrade 2014 pre-tax profit forecasts by 10%.
Testing kit-maker Omega Diagnostics (ODX:AIM) plummets 20.2% to 15.2p as it warns that sales will be lower than expected this year. The company blames disruption of moving to larger batch manufacturing. Interims are due next month (26 Nov).