UK and European stocks are holding their ground in early trading on Thursday after falls in stock markets in Asia. China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index earlier hit a 4-year low as fears of a damaging trade war linger.

After their best day in six months on Tuesday, US stocks finished modestly lower last night following minutes from the Federal Reserve which confirmed market expectations of more rate rises this year.

In company news, Domino’s Pizza (DOM) delivers an uninspiring third-quarter trading update with system sales up just 6% and like-for-like sales up 2.2% despite a strong July thanks to the World Cup. However with shares trading at a three-year low this week investors are taking comfort from an increase in the buyback from £50m to £75m, lifting the stock by 5% to 275p.

A very brief update from Games Workshop (GAW) citing unspecified 'uncertainties' does further damage to shares in the previously popular company.

Coming just a month after its AGM update that assured the market that trading was in line with expectations, today's news is a blow to investors, sending the share price tumbling more than 7% to £30.85.

Sports-betting and gaming group GVC Holdings (GVC) continues its recent ascent with shares adding 2% to 948p after the company reported continuing momentum in its online and European retail divisions. As well as market share gains the company saw further margin increases.

Shares in National Express (NEX) rally 3% to 406p following a positive summer trading update. For the quarter from July to September sales up 9% and pre-tax profits up 18%. Its UK coach business performed particularly well and there was good news on contract wins in the US.

Rank Group (RNK) reports like-for-like sales down nearly 5% for the 16 weeks to mid-October due to fewer punters at its Mecca bingo halls, although online revenues for Mecca rose more than 6%. Shares drop 4% to a new 3yr low of 157p.

Renishaw (RSW) shares drop 3% to £41.30, reversing Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s gains, after the healthcare technology group released first-quarter results showing a surprise 9% drop in profits despite rising sales.

Shares in Rentokil (RTO) hold steady at 313p in line with the FTSE despite a strong third-quarter update. Pest Control revenues grew 11% while Hygiene revenues grew 22% showing the company is well on track to deliver on its full-year targets.

Pharmaceutical company Shire (SHP) trades 50p better at £45.15 after news that the Japanese Fair Trade Commission gave unconditional clearance for the £47bn takeover of the UK firm by rival Takeda to create a top ten global drugmaker.

After disappointing guidance earlier this week from Australian mining and metals group BHP Billiton (BLT), rival South32 (S32) maintains its full-year production target thanks to robust demand and pricing. Shares ease 1% to 207p following across the board weakness in Asian markets.

Unilever (ULVR) third quarter sales show a pick-up from the first half but were still light of market expectations. Underlying sales growth was 3.8% against forecasts of 4.3% due mainly to falling sales volumes in Argentina where the economy is suffering a currency crisis. Shares dip 2% to £39.40.

Among stocks trading ex-dividend today are BAE Systems (BA.), Kerry Group (KYGA), Lookers (LOOK), Marshalls (MSLH), Mears Group (MER), Moss Bros (MOSB), Photo-Me Intl (PHTM), Saga (SAGA) and Smiths Group (SMIN).

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Issue Date: 18 Oct 2018