UK market nudge higher as marginally better-than-expected growth figures from China offset global growth target cuts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Washington-based lender now sees the world's economy expanding at 3.5% in 2015, down from the 3.8% pace projected in October.
UK Banking group Barclays (BARC) leads the FTSE 100 higher in early trade Tuesday, with Britain's blue-chip index making rough 17 point progress, or 0.27%, at 6,603, while the mid cap FTSE 250 is 0.2% up at 16,102. But oil prices continue to fall with WTI crude down 2.9% to $47.28 a barrel and Brent 0.76% off at $48.47.
There's finally some respite for investors in oil services firm Petrofac (PFC) as a consortium it is leading wins a $4 billion contract to develop a heavy oil project in Kuwait. The news drives the shares 4.6% higher to 655.2p. The scope of work, carried out in partnership with Greece's Consolidated Contractors Company, covers greenfield and brownfield facilities as well as a main central processing facility and associated infrastructure.
Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) Unilever (ULVR) is among the leading Footsie fallers, down 2.4% to £26.64, as the Lipton Tea producer provides a cautious outlook for 2015. Full-year results from the consumer products powerhouse, whose brands include Dove, Pot Noodle and Hellmann's, were impacted by weaker emerging markets and CEO Paul Polman doesn't expect a significant improvement in market conditions this year.
IG Group (IGG) bounces back from a £30 million hit taken during last week's exceptional currency volatility linked to the Swiss franc. Shares open 1.4% higher at 727p as first half results show profit before tax rose 2.8%.
Bookmaker William Hill (WMH) falls 4.3% to 360p on a 7% drop in fourth quarter group profit driven by weaker sporting results. Full-year operating profit is up by a record 11% to £371 million, boosted by an 86% jump in online gaming revenue. The group expects to see an additional £5 million a year tax hit from a new EU VAT charge on electronic services as well as other regulatory changes.
Among smaller caps, personal injury marketingfirm NAHL (NAH:AIM) and running Shares Play of the Week says it is trading ahead of expectations sending the stock 4.8% higher at 250p. The year-end update reveals 2014 revenue up 10.4% year-on-year to £43.8 million on enquiry growth of 15.3%.
The market doesn't seem to appreciated the strategic value of today's £14.9 million domain name business purchase by IT security and escrow business NCC (NCC). The shares sag 1% to 214p, but the deal looks a big step forward in developing its .trust third business arm.
Private investor favourite IQE (IQE:AIM) jumps more than 7.5% to 21.25p as the compound semiconductor wafer maker confirms full year expectations. That implies revenue of around £112 million and a rough 8% rise in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to approximately £27 million. 'We are excited by the market developments that are leading to the increasing deployment of compound semiconductor solutions across a range of applications,' says CEO Dr Drew Nelson, adding that 'we are confident about the progress that we expect to make during 2015.'
Mobile vouchers business Eagle Eye (EYE:AIM) jumps 12% to 185p as the company continues its run of impressive trading. First half results beat management expectations by delivering a 276% hike in revenues to £2.3 million, of which 81% was transactional, in line with its strategic focus.
Data analytics business Rosslyn Data Technologies (RDT:AIM) rallies a little over 4% to 18p on half year results but sales of just £1.25 million leave a big second half ask to match the market's £3.1 million forecasts. Recent contract wins lend some confidence that it can, but there's clearly plenty of hard work ahead.
Medical and industrial products distributor Diploma (DPLM) continues its New Year rally, adding a further 2.5% to 772p on a better-than-forecast Chinese GDP update. Chinese growth gives support to commodity exporters Canada and Australia, Diploma’s key markets.
Life sciences research specialist Ergomed (ERGO:AIM) rises 3.8% to 161p on having some £60 million of business to invoice so far this year. This follows a strong 2014 where revenues improved 14% to £22 million on winning 40% more business in the second half.
Central and Eastern European branded vodka play Stock Spirits (STCK) slumps almost 7% to 211.25p after confirming full-year profits will come in at the lower end of guidance. This possibility was flagged in November, with tough trading in Poland continuing in the fourth quarter following a duty increase and aggressive promotions by rivals.