A falling gold price and weakness in Asian markets adds to disappointment over updates from some of the big miners and this is putting pressure on the FTSE 100 – down 48.77 points at 6720.30.
BHP Billiton (BLT) falls 3% to £12.13 as better-than-expected iron ore output is offset by weak commodity prices. BHP spin-off South32 (S32) continues to have a terrible time on the stock market, down a further 2.3% to 84p as it takes a $1.9 billion writedown mostly against its manganese assets. Fresnillo (FRES) drops 2.3% to 637p; raised guidance for gold production fails to hide the fact that spot prices are weak.
Low cost airline EasyJet (EZJ) soars 4.9% to £17.47 as a trading update reveals a strong benefit from tourists booking summer getaways and guides for annual profit growth of up to 14%. In May the company had warned competitive pressures would undermine revenue per seat and cited an impact from air traffic control strikes in France but now says these headwinds have been offset by the appetite for beach holidays.
Sector peer Flybe's (FLYB) shares are also in take-off mode – up 5% to 74.6p on a bullish first quarter update which suggests its turnaround plan is beginning to bear fruit. Seat capacity climbed 12.3% to 2.8 million seats, while passenger numbers grew 9.8% to 2.1 million. Revenues were up 11.6% to £147.7 million.
A competitive broadband market is putting TalkTalk (TALK) shares under pressure, down 6.5% to 365p. An otherwise reassuring statement included commentary on a 'softer' UK broadband market in the three months to 30 June amid 'higher promotional activity', presumably from rival providers Sky (SKY) and BT (BT.A).
A disappointing earnings report overnight from major customer Apple (AAPL:NDQ) and a slight miss on its own numbers sees chip designer ARM (ARM) slip 3.4% to £10.04. Earnings per share for the second quarter rose by 34% to 7.28p below consensus at 7.5p.
ARM's peer Imagination Technologies (IMG) – also a major supplier to Apple – is down 2.4% at 237p.
Equipment rental outfit Ashtead (AHT) takes a big knock as analysts at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch downgrade their rating on the stock, prompting a 4% decline to £10.01. The research note cites a 'triple whammy' of worrying trends including a weakening rental rates, weak guidance from sector peer United Rentals (URI:NYSE) and a slowdown caused by reduced oil and gas infrastructure spend.
North River Resources (NRRP:AIM) falls 21% to 0.25p after private equity group Greenstone pulled its funding agreement following delays to developing a lead/zinc project in Namibia.
Drone training company Strat Aero (AERO:AIM) descends 5.7% to 6.25p as unmanned aerial vehicles get bad press following a near miss with a passenger jet at Heathrow airport. As we reported in April, Strat Aero believes there will be an accident soon that will cause a change in the law and force drone operators to undergo training, naturally playing into the hands of its services.
Online casino operator 32Red (TTR:AIM) loses 3.8% to 69.8p as investors take profits after a strong run following its acquisition of Roxy Palace on 14 July. A first half update shows year-on-year net gaming revenue is up 22% to £18.6 million in the six months to 30 June. The company's investment in marketing reduces casino player yield from £400 to £380 while the number of active customers is 22% higher at 62,214.
Brewer and pub group Marston's (MARS) gains 1.8% to 157.9p on a 1.7% increase in like-for-like sales in both its 'destination and premium' and 'taverns' divisions in the 41 weeks to 18 July. The average profit per leased pub rises by 4% while own-brewed beer volumes, including the recently-acquired Thwaites business, are up by 10%.