FTSE indices make modest gains ahead of the four-day Easter weekend with oil stock, supermarkets and financial stocks contributing. Wall St fell overnight, but Asian markets firmed. Investors are distracted by Iran nuclear talks, bloodshed in Yemen and the Greek debt soap opera.
In early trade on Thursday the benchmark FTSE 100 index is up around 7 points, or 0.1%, at 6,816, although midcaps perform much more strongly, the FTSE 250 rallying more than 100 points, or 0.6%, to 17,224. WTI crude nudges modestly lower to $49.6/bbl, while Brent eases 0.8% to $56.65/bbl. The market is looking to the US trade balance out at midday.
Food, fashion and homewares colossus Marks & Spencer (MKS) heads the Footsie leader board, marked up 5.7% to 560.5p, after delivering better-than-expected fourth quarter UK sales. Hard-pressed CEO Marc Bolland announces a first positive General Merchandise like-for-like performance for sixteen quarters, as M&S puts its recent online problems behind it. Food sales outperformed the market, though there's a disappointing international performance to temper enthusiasm this morning.
Among bigger movers, Indian fashion website Koovs (KOOV:AIM) takes a hammering, down 43% to 67.5p after flagging higher-than-expected marketing costs, as it looks to tap into the Indian e-commerce market's explosive growth rates.
Stamps, autographs and rare coins retailer Stanley Gibbons (SGI:AIM) slumps 13.7% to 229.5p on a profit warning. Sales and profits for the year to March will be 'materially below' market expectations, though still ahead year-on-year, as a number of high value sales weren't completed before the year end.
Lithium explorer Bacanora Minerals (BCN:AIM) rallies 14.2% to 88.5p as investors speculate over potential increased demand for its commodity. There's talk that Tesla Motors will soon unveil a new home battery, thereby requiring even more lithium at its nearby factory in Nevada which is slated to make enough lithium-ion battery cells to power 500,000 electric cars by 2020. Shares has long been a fan of Bacanora with this article best explaining the investment case.
Inetsco (INC:AIM) crashes 30% to 0.06p after its nominated advisor resigns. The company has one month to appoint a successor or have its shares cancelled. It was already in talks with another nominated advisor.
Inspirit Energy (INSP:AIM), up 15.6% to 0.78p, reports progress on several fronts which represents significant advance for the business towards its goal of the commercialisation of its Kinematic Stirling Engine-based micro-combined heat and power (mCHP) technology.
Elsewhere, gaming software supplier Playtech (PTEC) climbs 4% to 808p after agreeing to acquire TradeFX, an online contracts for difference and binary options broker and trading platform. The €208 million deal also has potential earn-out payments of €250 million, based on future profits. TradeFX, which is majority owned by Playtech founder Teddy Sagi, is expected to be immediately earnings enhancing.
BCA Marketplace (BCA), brought to market via a reverse takeover involving investment vehicle Haversham Holdings, starts trading today at a price of 157p. That gives the used car auction business a market capitalisation of £1.2 billion.
Oil minnow Mosman Oil & Gas (MSMN:AIM), down 4.6% to 5.13p, is accelerating its drilling programme on its Murchison permit in New Zealand. It has also raised £0.5m via a placing and subscription of 10 million new shares at 5p each by SP Angel Corporate Finance.