London midday: Stocks nudge lower as investors mull earnings
London stocks had edged lower by midday on Thursday as the pound held firm against the dollar, having gained ground on news of a snap general election in June.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.1% to 7,106.62, while the pound was 0.3% firmer against the dollar at 1.2825. A stronger pound tends to dent the index, as around 70% of its constituents derive their earnings from overseas.
IG analyst Joshua Mahony said: "The FTSE is weakening once more this morning, as the pound continues its ascent in the wake of Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election in just seven weeks. To many the appreciation of the pound seems counter-intuitive, yet the prospect of a strengthened Tory majority means there is hope that this election could be good for the UK in Brexit negotiations.
"While Jeremy Corbyn is pushing his long-standing socialist policies, the fact is that this is essentially a vote on who we want to lead our country into Brexit negotiations. Corbyn seems ill-equipped to deal with his own party members, let alone European heads of state."
The stronger pound was compounded by a weaker oil price, said Mike van Dulken at Accendo Markets, with BP and Shell both lower.
Equipment rental firm Ashtead was the biggest faller, with its shares retreating after results from US peer United Rental showed rental rates were under pressure in the first quarter.
Retailer Debenhams slumped after new chief executive Sergio Bucher unveiled his strategic vision for growing the company, and following the release of in-line interim results.
Acacia Mining shares lost their shine after the company's first-quarter results showed a 15% increase in gold production but that sales were lower than the same period last year due to the Tanzanian government's gold and copper export ban.
Technical products supplier Diploma edged lower as it announced the acquisition of Abacus ALS, the largest privately owned supplier of in-vitro diagnostics products in Australia and New Zealand, for up to £15.7m (AU$26m).
Barratt Developments, Petrofac, Smurfit Kappa, Mondi, Hochschild, John Laing, and Inmarsat were in the red as their stock went ex-dividend.
Going the other way, Unilever shares made headway after the group upped its quarterly dividend 12% as underlying sales grew 2.9% in the first three months of the year, despite sales volumes remaining in the red for the third consecutive quarter.
Rio Tinto was also in the black despite saying that first quarter copper production fell 37% month on month and year on year due to issues at its mines in Chile and Indonesia. Rio cut its mined copper guidance to between 500,000 and 550,000 tonnes for the year from its previous guidance of between 525,000 and 665,000 tonnes.
Paper and plastics product supplier Essentra rallied after confirming that trading for the financial year to date had been in line with the board's expectations.
Sky ticked up a touch after saying it has signed a multi-year $250m (£195m) co-production deal with US television network HBO as operating profits fell 11% to £1.01bn for the nine months to April.
Asset manager Man Group surged as it reported a 10% jump in funds under management for the first quarter, boosted in part by a recent acquisition.
Transport operator Go-Ahead also racked up strong gains after it reiterated its expectations for the full year as it said service levels on the Govia Thameslink Railway, which it runs, have stabilised following recent industrial action.
WPP was boosted by well-received results from French peer Publicis.
UK lenders upped mortgage lending by 19% in March compared to February, according to the Council for Mortgage Lenders.
There are no major UK data releases due, but Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is due to give a speech at 1630 BST. In the US, initial jobless claims and the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey are at 1330 BST.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Unilever (ULVR) 3,999.50p 1.57%
Pearson (PSON) 625.00p 1.05%
St James's Place (STJ) 1,069.00p 1.04%
GKN (GKN) 348.00p 0.99%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 7,301.00p 0.76%
Admiral Group (ADM) 2,019.00p 0.70%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 2,483.00p 0.69%
WPP (WPP) 1,697.00p 0.65%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 5,218.00p 0.64%
Carnival (CCL) 4,534.00p 0.60%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,554.00p -4.31%
Intu Properties (INTU) 274.60p -4.25%
Kingfisher (KGF) 328.10p -2.26%
BAE Systems (BA.) 617.00p -2.14%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,513.00p -2.07%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 576.50p -1.96%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 7,040.00p -1.61%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 1,959.00p -1.46%
Persimmon (PSN) 2,268.00p -1.26%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 354.20p -1.17%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Essentra (ESNT) 527.00p 4.77%
Man Group (EMG) 149.60p 3.60%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 1,781.00p 3.01%
Cobham (COB) 129.30p 2.29%
Paragon Group Of Companies (PAG) 447.00p 2.01%
HarbourVest Global Private Equity Limited A Shs (HVPE) 1,245.00p 1.22%
Caledonia Investments (CLDN) 2,792.00p 1.12%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 336.60p 1.08%
Homeserve (HSV) 655.00p 1.00%
Senior (SNR) 209.30p 0.92%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Debenhams (DEB) 52.05p -5.88%
Acacia Mining (ACA) 429.60p -5.73%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 824.50p -5.39%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 261.00p -4.95%
Dixons Carphone (DC.) 322.70p -3.09%
Hunting (HTG) 557.50p -2.79%
John Laing Group (JLG) 283.20p -2.75%
Aggreko (AGK) 834.00p -2.68%
International Public Partnerships Ltd. (INPP) 154.40p -2.53%
IP Group (IPO) 139.10p -2.39%