Ex-dividends drag on FTSE

Several blue-chips went ex-dividend including high street bank Lloyds (LLOY), gambling firm Paddy Power Betfair (PPB), publishing firm Pearson (PSON) and pharmaceutical business Hikma (HIK).

This dragged the FTSE 100 down 0.3% to 7,309, with oil colossus BP (BP.) contributing to the underperformance as it slumped 0.8% to 461.4p.

According to media reports, BP signed an agreement with chemicals logistics company AKR Corporindo for the joint development of a differentiated fuel firm.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil slipped 0.2% higher to $51.22 and $54.48 per barrel, respectively.

Gold rose 0.6% to $1,252 per ounce and copper was stable at $5,908 per tonne.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

US stocks fell by approximately 0.2% on Wednesday as traders focused on interest rates. Most members of the Federal Open Market Committee voted to raise its federal funds interest rate as the economy was strong.

The market also became more sceptical on the promised tax reforms from US President Donald Trump after house speaker Paul Ryan said it could take longer than an overhaul of healthcare, according to Reuters.

Asian markets were concerned that the US Federal Reserve may reduce its balance sheet, causing the Nikkei 225 in Japan to close 1.4% lower on Thursday.

The Hang Seng and SSE Composite followed suit, but suffered smaller falls.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) entered a settlement agreement with Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which resolved patent litigation concerning the latter’s Xyrem oral solution to treat narcolepsy.

Ben & Jerry’s owner Unilever (ULVR) advanced 1.3% to £39.89 despite outlining actions and targets after a review of the business in response to a failed takeover attempt by US rival Kraft Heinz. Among these aims was to target 20% underlying operating margin by 2020 and planned hike in its dividend by 12%. Management also said it would exit its spreads business.

Shares in budget airline easyJet (EZJ) were up 1% to £10.28 despite reporting it carried 6.33 million passengers in March, which was 10.6% higher compared to a year ago.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) sold its stake in a New Zealand gas field while taking over its operating company under a plan to possibly divest its holdings in the country later on, according to reports.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Home emergency services business HomeServe (HSV) reported strong momentum and said it expected results for the year ended 31 March to be at the upper end of market forecasts. The market marked the stock 8.7% higher to 616p on the good news.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

There was a new chief financial officer at newspapers group Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) as former Thomas Reuters risk executive Tim Collier joined. He replaced Stephen Daintith who resigned from the group in September, but this made little impact on the share price.

Babywear retailer Mothercare (MTC) was up 2.8% to 117.5p as it posted a decent start to trading in 2017 with like-for-like sales for the 11 weeks to 25 March up 4.5%.

Medical foods developer Provexis (PXS) entered a memorandum of understanding with By-Health concerning a research and collaboration agreement for Fruitflow. Investors were excited as the stock jumped 11.2% to 0.6p.

Chinese medicines producer Taihua (TAIH) fell another 36.5% to 1p following its announcement on 5 April that it will seek shareholder permission to delist from AIM.

Myanmar-focused mobile services firm MySQUAR (MYSQ) issued 50.5 million shares before the conversion of $450,000 of loan notes by Sandabel Capital. Management said it would also review its financing options.

Hardide (HDD) announced that overall trading was comfortably ahead of its performance in the last financial year, triggering a 17% rise in the stock to 1.2p.

Blur Group (BLUR) reported a UK County Council would be continuing its programme of spend that could lead to a multiple six-figure roll out of its indirect spend management platform. Shares in the firm were up 6.5% to 14.3p.

Copper focused miner Weatherly International (WTI) highlighted reduced copper cathode output at Tschudi for its March 2017 quarter, with 3,236 tonnes produced 24% below installed capacity. It revised production guidance to 14,500-15,000 tonnes for the year to June 2017, prompting a sell off as the stock crashed 34.6% to 0.4p.

Greka Drilling (GDL) catapulted 68.5% to 4.5p after winning a three-year integrated drilling contract from Indian state oil firm ONGC for its Bokaro CBM asset.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com