Resources companies are crunched thanks to a mixture of weaker commodity prices, negative analyst comment and poor results, sending the FTSE 100 down 0.51% to 6,143.25.
Copper miner Antofagasta (ANTO) slumps 9.4% to 486.9p as full year results miss expectations and the dividend is cancelled. Fellow miner Anglo American (AAL) drops 8.5% to 500p despite news that chief executive Mark Cutifani spent £220,400 on buying company shares. The share price weakness may be down to a negative research report from Haitong which downgrades Anglo to 'sell' on valuation grounds.
Meanwhile, continuing pressure on oil prices sees the sector come under renewed pressure with Tullow Oil (TLW) the pick of the fallers, down 6.7% at 200.3p.
There is a bright spot among the gloom. Better than expected half year results and a special dividend trigger an 11.6% rally in Gem Diamonds (GEMD) to 110.5p. The miner is also looking at a possible acquisition in Lesotho, as we discuss in this article.
Online supermarket Ocado (OCDO) ripens up 5.4% to 275.6p after a poor run, investors welcoming a solid first quarter update. Retail sales increased 13.8% to £286.7 million in the 12 weeks to 21 February, though Ocado's average basket size contracted by 2.9% to £111.41 amid industry price deflation and cut-throat competition.
Insurer Legal & General (LGEN) falls 5.3% to 230.7p as investors take profits the day before George Osborne delivers this year’s Budget. The company reports pre-tax profit up 9% to £1.2 billion in 2015, while there is a 19% improvement in the total dividend to 13.4p a share.
Supermarkets operator J Sainsbury (SBRY) softens 3.4p to 277.2p despite serving up positive like-for-like sales growth for the first quarter in more than two years and also flagging healthy online grocery and clothing sales growth.
Like-for-likes (excluding petrol) edged up 0.1% in the fourth quarter to 12 March, though CEO Mike Coupe cautions 'the market will remain competitive as food deflation continues to impact sales growth'.
All eyes are now on the 18 March deadline for any further bid to acquire Argos owner Home Retail (HOME), a deal for which Sainsbury's faces strong competition from Steinhoff International.
More customers and a 27% rise in premiums to £614.9 million helped home and car insurer Hastings Direct (HSTG) record a 32.7% pre-tax profit improvement to £91.3 million in 2015. Shares moved 5.3% higher to 170.1p on the news. The company, which listed in October, also recommended a maiden dividend of 2.2p a share, equivalent to a 1.2% yield.
Respiratory disease-focused drug developer Verona Pharma (VRP:AIM) rockets 26.5% higher to 5.1p on positive phase II trial results for RPL554.
Stellar Diamonds (STEL:AIM) falls 16% to 10.5p on a discounted share placing. It has raised £600,000 by issuing new stock at 1p for working capital purposes.
Low cost gym chain The Gym (GYM) falls 3.7% to 236p on news its pre-tax loss widened from £9.4 million to £12.4 million in 2015 as a result of pre-IPO finance costs and exceptional costs. Revenue increased by 31.9% to £60 million while the number of members rose by 28.3% to 376,000.
Having seen its shares collapse on 14 March following the resignation of its nomad Sanlam Securities, small cap oil firm Nostra Terra (NTOG:AIM) bounces back – up 36% to 0.08p as Strand Hanson is appointed as replacement.
Social housing and home care provider Mears (MER) trades flat at 410p as it announces full year results and a new £100 million contract with Devon County Council for care services. Revenue in the year to 31 December 2015 increased 5% to £881 million but profit-before-tax declined 12% to £25.9 million after the acquisition of loss-making Care at Home in May 2015. Underlying earnings per share was 27.9p.