Stocks traded sideways at lunchtime despite a strong showing from US technology stocks which fed through into Asian trading overnight.

Gains in miners were offset by falls in travel, leisure and retail stocks as strength in energy and commodities stoked fears of a Christmas rate rise, which in turn drove the pound higher.

At midday the FTSE 100 was virtually flat at 7,208 points while sterling was up 0.7% against the dollar at $1.3850 and Brent crude gained 1% to $85 per barrel.

COMPANY NEWS ROUND UP

Shares in miner BHP (BHP) climbed 1.6% to £20.19 despite the firm reporting a fall in iron ore, copper and coal production in the September quarter as maintenance work at Olympic Dam held back volumes.

Ire-ore production fell 4% to 63.3 Mt year-on-year, while metallurgical coal, nickel and copper were down 9%, 9%, and 20% respectively.

Petroleum, and energy coal production was up 3% and 17% respectively.

Group copper equivalent production decreased by 5% in the September 2021 quarter due to lower minerals volumes impacted by planned maintenance.

Looking ahead, the company maintained production and unit cost guidance for the 2022 financial year.

Fellow miner Rio Tinto (RIO) also gained 1.6% to £50.83 after it said strategy head Peter Toth was leaving the company to accept a position elsewhere.

Toth stepped down from the company's executive committee with immediate effect and his responsibilities would be divided between current executives, although he will remain in an advisory role until the end of 2021 and leave the company on 5 April 2022.

Shares in mining company Hochschild Mining (HOC) rallied 3.9% to 148p after it unveiled plans to demerge shares of its rare earths subsidiary Aclara Resources as the latter seeks to list its shares on the Toronto stock exchange.

Following the Demerger, Hochschild Mining's stake in Aclara, a development-stage rare earth mineral resources company, would fall to 20% from 80%.

Defence contractor Meggitt (MGGT) said its planned acquisition by Parker-Hannifin was the subject of a government investigation based on national security concerns.

The company added that the CMA (competition and markets authority) is required to report to the Secretary of State by midnight at the end of 18 March 2022 and ‘looks forward to engaging constructively with the CMA on its review’. The shares were steady at 749p.

ENERGY HIT

Price comparison company Moneysupermarket.com (MONY) said recent ‘unprecedented’ energy market conditions had impacted its home services revenues which fell 46% to £13.9 million in the third quarter. Overall revenues dropped 10% to £76.4 million.

Meanwhile the company noted that a soft insurance market had intensified competition in the car and home insurance market, knocking third quarter revenues 10% to £41.3 million.

The company said it expected strong gross margin performance to continue and maintained full year profit guidance.

In a separate announcement the company said it had agreed to acquire Quidco for an initial £87 million in cash and a deferred consideration of £14 million.

Quidco is the UK’s second largest cashback provider offering its services to around 4,500 merchants. The news sent the shares surging 8% to 220p.

DIVIDEND HIKE

Shares in homebuilder Bellway (BWY) gained 2% to £34.19 after the firm more than doubled annual profits thanks to a jump in completions and hiked its dividend.

For the year ended 31 July, pre-tax profit rose 102.4% to £479 on a 40% increase in revenues to £3.12 billion.

The company proposed a total dividend per share of 117.5p, up 135% to from 50.0 pence last year. The company said a strong order book of £1,966 billion supported a 10% rise in full-year completions to 11,000 homes.

Online betting company 888 Holdings (888) said third-quarter revenues grew 7% to $229.9 million as strength in its gaming division offset a fall in betting activity.

Looking ahead, the firm said it remained confident of meeting full year expectations despite flagging a $10 million hit from its decision to cease operations in the Netherlands following policy changes published by the Dutch Gambling Authority. However, the shares dropped 2.7% to 405p.

Foreign exchange group Wise (WISE) said second quarter revenues through September grew  25% to £132.8 million amid a surge in transaction volumes.

Transaction volumes jumped 36% to £18.0 billion and were up 10% compared to the second quarter. The company expects annual revenue growth in the low-to-mid 20 percent range. The shares reversed their initial gains to trade 3.5% lower at 890p.

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Issue Date: 19 Oct 2021