UK stocks nudge lower with a mixed bag of oil, retail and financial stocks outweighing gains among several miners. Wall St lost ground last night, as do Asian markets this morning. The benchmark FTSE 100 is down 68.83 points, or 1.07%, at 6,348 in early deals as oil prices continue to slip lower, WTI slipping below $50 a barrel and Brent crude just a fraction above.
Oilies predictably trace falling crude. Tullow Oil (TLW) slides 1.5% to 390.5p, Cairn Energy (CNE) is 1.4% off at 173.1p, while sector heavyweights Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) and BP (BP.) limp lower too. However, EnQuest (ENQ) is among the top fallers down 6.6% at 32.2p. The company is highly geared to movements in the crude market because of the higher costs in its North Sea base of operations and substantial debt pile.
US-focused Equipment rental outfit Ashtead (AHT) heads the Footsie loser board as its shares slump more than 7% to £10.98 on a big broker downgrade to US peer United Rentals (URI:NYSE). Analysts at Evercore in the US cut United Rentals from ‘buy’ to ‘sell’, citing a fourth quarter construction equipment dealer survey which indicates a sharp decline in oil and energy-related construction activity. Oil and energy has been a big driver of US non-residential manufacturing activity in recent years and any reversal puts the earnings of both businesses under pressure.
Managed pubs and restaurants operator Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) gains 2.6% to 388p after granting a performance restricted share plan option of 61,738 shares to chief operating officer Phil Urban. Numis Securities reissues its add rating with a target price of 420p, implying a potential upside of 8%.
A shift in focus to the hotel linen market is paying off for Johnson Service (JSG:AIM) which says 2014 financial results will beat expectations, sending the stock up 2.4% to 63p. The £184 million cap is to close a third of its drycleaning shop estate after saying lease renewals won't be financially viable.
Among the biggest movers, quantum dot technology developer Nanoco (NANO:AIM) crashes 18% to 113p as Philips and AOC unveil new computer monitors using rival technology from QD Vision at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Korean electronics giant LG is expected to launch a range of super high definition TVs at CES that use Nanoco's cadmium-free technology later this week.
Asia Resource Minerals (ARMS) falls 36.9% to 9.63p after saying attempts by former chairman Samin Tan to regain control of the coal miner could see the main operating business not run in the interests of all shareholders.
Micro cap intellectual property investor Amphion Innovations (AMP:AIM) soars 33% to 1.5p after winning a US court appeal case on patent infringement by third parties.
Logistics specialist DX Group (DX.) is capitalising on the misfortune of its beleagured rival City Link by acquiring fire sale assets comprising of cages, scanners and certain intellectual property, for £1.1 million. Shares in the £173 million cap nudge 1.7% higher to 87.75p
Fitbug (FITB:AIM) adds 1.3% to 9.5p on news it has added a 'speak and eat' function to its Kiqplan digital health coaching platform. Users can tell Kiqplan what they ate rather than typing it in and the technology can be linked to home sensors on fridges and cookie jars to quiz people on whether they need that extra biscuit.