London’s FTSE 100 opens on the front foot, up 3.8 points to 7,457 despite an overnight decline on Asian markets and with inflation data due mid-morning.

Equipment rental specialist Ashtead (AHT) advances 4.2% to £21.04 on news full year profits are likely to beat previous expectations, with second quarter trading boosted by clean-up work following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Reporting a rise in first half pre-tax profit to £537m (2016: £426m) and a 16% dividend hike to 5.5p, Ashtead also announces a share buyback of at least £500m and up to £1bn over the next 18 months.

Recruiter Robert Walters (RWA) races 9.1% higher to 601p after upgrading full year pre-tax profit guidance following strong trading across all regions in first two months of the fourth quarter.

Flooring products purveyor Carpetright (CPR) cheapens 5.4% to 175p after rolling out a profit warning. Underlying pre-tax profit for the second half of the year is now expected to come in towards the bottom end of the previous £13.8m-to-£16.7m range of market expectations, CEO Wilf Walsh taking a more cautious view on prospects amid fragile consumer confidence.

The news accompanies first half results showing a slump in taxable profits to £2.1m (2017: £5.1m), Carpetright’s performance impacted by the clearance of discontinued bed lines in the UK as well as unsuccessful deeper discounting promotions in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Balfour Beatty (BBY) is bid up 1.9p to 273.9p after confirming it is increasingly confident of achieving industry-standard margins in the second half of 2018. The action the construction group has taken during the first three years of its Build to Last programme has laid a solid foundation for long term profitable growth.

Premium British lifestyle brand Joules (JOUL:AIM) improves 3p to 266p on a positive first half trading update, highlighting further growth across markets, channels and product categories.

CEO Colin Porter concedes trading conditions will remains challenging, yet sounds a confident note ahead of Christmas while flagging good growth in Joules’ Spring/Summer 2018 wholesale order book.

Specialist services and engineering play TP (TPG:AIM) ticks 4.65% higher to 5.62p after securing a £700,000 equipment supply contract with an unnamed ‘major overseas defence contractor’.

Autins (AUTG:AIM), which supplies the car industry with specialist compound materials designed to cut noise nuisance and reduce wasted heat, sparks up 3.2% to 129p on full year results showing improved sales and profits. There’s also a maiden 0.8p final dividend for investors to cheer.

Issue Date: 12 Dec 2017