UK stocks fall in early trade on Monday as oil prices plunge after global producers failed to agree on an output freeze to address the supply glut. The FTSE 100 index nudges around 15 points lower, or about 0.2%, to 6,328, with midcaps and smaller companies also off but by even more modest levels.

The fairly predictable failure to secure a oil price freeze deal in Doha (17 Apr) nonetheless undermines crude again with resulting pressure on oil and gas stocks. BP (BP.) dives 2.2% to 348.2p and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) falls 2.75% to £17.69.

Mining stocks are also southbound in early trading with a raft of hole diggers in the red, led by Antofagasta (ANTO), off 2% at 461p.

British Gas parent Centrica (CNA) says it is on track to meet its targets for this year reducing its direct headcount by around 3,000 and reporting adjusted operating cash flow of more than £2 billion. The statement comes alongside a first quarter update showing 800 jobs losses already. But the market is not impressed, marking the shares 2.3% down at 232.9p.

British Gas engineer visiting customer's home / stock pictures

FTSE 100 payments specialist Worldpay (WPG) bucks the market slide on an upgrade from analysts at Credit Suisse. A decline in Worldpay's share price has prompted the Zurich-headquartered investment bank to raise the stock's rating from 'neutral' to 'outperform', while maintaining its target price at 300p.

Health, hygiene and home products powerhouse Reckitt Benckiser (RB.), a running Play of the Week, clips ahead 43p to £67.78 on a first quarter update flagging a good start to the year. Despite continued challenging market conditions, like-for-like sales grew 5% in Q1 with consumer health brands outperforming again, among them Durex, Gaviscon and Strepsils. CEO Rakesh Kapoor also reiterates 2016 targets of 4-5% like-for-like sales growth and 'moderate margin expansion'.

Greetings cards maker International Greetings (IGR:AIM) sparks up 10.6% to 172.5p on a positive year-end trading update, a possibility flagged by SHARES in this week's small caps section of the magazine. CEO Paul Fineman says the financial performance for the year to March was ahead of expectations, resulting in a further year of double digit earnings growth and with debt coming down quicker-than-anticipated, guides towards a higher-than-expected full-year dividend of 2.5p.

Picture - IGR Products 3

Bucking this negative trend is North Sea operator Hurricane Energy (HUR:AIM) which raises £52.1 million at a premium to drill two wells later in 2016. The shares are up 26.8% to 12.75p.

Smart meter provider Energy Assets (EAS:AIM) surges 39% to 679p as it receives a cash takeover offer of 685p a share.

meter-install

Insurer Lancashire (LRE) is among the top mid cap gainers, adding 2.2% to 545p as analysts at Citi upgrade the stock from 'neutral' to 'buy'.

A busy day at the small cap end of the market sees a number of earnings announcements and mergers and acquisition activity.

Smoke detector supplier Sprue Aegis (SPRP:AIM) sheds 46% to 145p as faulty batteries installed in its products trigger unexpected warranty pay-outs.

Shares in liquid biopsy developer Angle (AGL:AIM) remain flat at 73p after another set positive test results for its Parsortix system. The market appeared to be expecting the news that the blood test device could replace more invasive biopsies to diagnose breast cancer.

Middle East hotels operator Action Hotels (AHCG:AIM) gains 3.9% to 53.5p after reporting net profit of $2.8 million in 2015, ahead of management expectations and a 47% increase on the previous year. Revenue is up 16% to $43.5 million and the final dividend has been lifted by 1.8% to 1.47p per share. The group says 2016 has started well with revenue 14% higher than the same period last year.

Mobile gaming company Nektan (NKTN:AIM) surges 6.3% to 76.5p on a 115% rise in net gaming revenue to £2.3 million in the three months to 31 March. The number of first time depositors grew 42% to 15,628.


Issue Date: 18 Apr 2016