London equities make fractional gains in early trade on Thursday with rising miners and oilies only just outstripping falls among utilities, financials and pharmas. European markets are modestly firmer overall, following drops on Wall Street and across Asia after the Fed Reserve held its benchmark interest rate overnight.
The FTSE 100 index nudges just a point or two higher to 5,990, although mid caps do better, the FTSE 250 up 0.18% at 16,310.
In corporate news, UK energy supplier SSE (SSE) follows the E.ON lead in cutting its retail energy prices, with domestic customers set for a 5.3% drop in fuel tariffs. But the market shrugs off the move, the shares barely moving, nudging just 0.5% higher to £14.39, presumably investors conflicted by better press but potentially lower profits. Last week German utility E.ON cut its own energy prices by 5.1%.
Gold digger Condor Gold (CNR:AIM) continues its spectacular rally with another 11% gain to 43.75p. The share price has more than doubled in the past week amid speculation as to what the miner will do next, having scrapped plans to sell itself. Non-executive director Jim Mellon has already made £26,800 profit from buying shares two days ago. Shares looks at the promising prospects for gold in today's issue of the magazine.
Arian Silver (AGQ:AIM) dives 36% to 1.2p after issuing ‘units’ comprising of shares and warrants at the discounted price of 1p to raise £797,875. The cash will be used for working capital at its mining prospects in Mexico.
Mining investor Anglo Pacific (APF) rises 5.2% to 55.25p on a mixture of good and bad news. It blames falling coal prices for necessitating a 25% cut in its dividend. However, royalty income for 2015 is set to be 2.5 times higher than the previous year and operating costs are falling.
Services buying platform operator Blur (BLUR:AIM) rallies strong on Thursday as investors digest quarterly operating metrics and a year-end trading update, released yesterday. The shares jump 23% to 17.25p as the company reports improving cash consumption.
Cameroon gas producer Victoria Oil & Gas (VOG:AIM) is up 14.4% to 30.88p as it unveils plans for 2016. These include boosting gas supply to its industrial customers around the city of Douala by 30% and drilling two new wells on its Logbaba field.
Financial services provider to affluent investors Hansard Global (HSD) climbs 8.2% to 111.5p on the £56.4 million of new business booked in the six months to 31 December being 92% higher than a year earlier. Management expect more of the same in the second half.
Bombed-out Chinese orange grower Asian Citrus (ACHL:AIM) cheapens 12.1% to 3.63p as it slips out the latest in a string of profit warnings. The small cap guides towards lower-than-expected sales and a wider-than-anticipated loss for 2015, reflecting a disease-stricken winter orange crop and higher spending on pesticides to prevent disease spreading and protect unaffected orange trees.
All Bar One and Toby Carvery owner Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) gains 2.4% to 290p after reporting like-for-like sales growth of 2% in the two weeks of Christmas and New Year. Over the financial year to date total sales have fallen by 0.8% but operating margins are ahead of last year. The group says it has accelerated its remodel programme to revitalise and reposition the estate, with 76 completed so far.
Ireland hotel operator Dalata Hotel (DAL:AIM) (see today's Shares magazine) gains 2.7% to 385p on news it has agreed to acquire the leasehold interest of four hotels in Dublin, Croydon, Cork and Limerick for an enterprise value of €40 million. The group plans to invest €14 million on refurbishing the hotels over the next two years and will rebrand them to the Clayton Hotels name.
Pub and brewing company Fuller, Smith & Turner (FSTA) adds 1.8% to £11.35 on a 5.3% rise in like-for-like sales in its managed pubs and hotels in the 43 weeks to 23 January. Profits in the tenanted inns division are up by 3% while beer and cider volumes in the Fuller's Beer Company are down by 1%.
Interactive TV gaming company NetPlay TV (NPT:AIM) rises 1.5% to 8.6p after saying net revenue and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) for 2015 will be in line with market expectations. It says it is considering all relevant acquisition opportunities and continues to be highly cash generative.
Sausage, bacon and sandwiches supplier Cranswick (CWK) rises 14p to £19.99, bid higher on a strong third quarter trading statement. Total sales grew 5% in the quarter, driven by 11% volume growth and underpinned by another period of brisk Christmas business for the food producer.
Luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo (CHOO) ticks 1.2p higher to 128.5p on a surprisingly robust 2015 year-end update and a confident outlook statement. Despite the headwinds battering the global luxury sector, the red carpet favourite reports another year of record sales, reflecting growth in Asia and Japan and new store openings, and says it successfully reversed a first half decline in wholesale revenues too.
Premium drinks giant Diageo (DGE) softens 6p to £18.61, despite interims revealing 1.8% organic sales growth and higher free cash flow. The bad news is first half sales and operating profit reduced due to adverse exchange rates and the impact of non-core asset sales.
Coffee table book publisher and running Shares Play of the Week Quarto (QRT) gains 2.9% to 214p as a year end trading update reveals performance is ahead of management expectations and the group has achieved a material reduction in net debt. In response Peel Hunt upgrades from 'hold' to 'add' with a price target of 260p.