FTSE eases back as utilities struggle

Utility stocks National Grid (NG.), United Utilities and SSE (SSE) were among the biggest blue chip fallers as the FTSE 100 lost earlier gains.

Manufacturing made a strong start to the year as the Purchasing Managers’ Index slipped from a two-and-a-half year high of 56.1 in December to 55.9 in January.

Output growth was at a 32-month high, although input costs soared to a record level, according to Markit’s latest data.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil rallied over 1.2% to $53.46 and $56.38 per barrel, respectively.

Gold slid 0.4% lower to $1,203 per ounce and copper cheapened 0.5% to $5,974 per tonne.

On Wall Street, both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 failed to make any gains as investor sentiment remained stagnant ahead of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan was 0.5% higher despite shares in video game-maker Nintendo falling to a five-month low as it failed to monetise its debut smartphone game Super Mario Run.

Trading in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was subdued as it closed 0.2% lower, while the SSE Composite slipped 0.3% higher.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) reported overnight that nearly all flights will go ahead as scheduled despite strike action by cabin crew between 5 and 7 February, with only a few flights expected to be merged.

Workers at the world’s biggest copper mine Escondida, operated by BHP Billiton (BLT), voted to reject a company wage offer and go on strike, the union reportedly told news agency Reuters overnight.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Broadband supplier TalkTalk (TALK) announced the departure of CEO Dido Harding as the group posted a 5.4% drop in third quarter on-net revenue.

Tristia Harrison, currently managing director of TalkTalk Consumer, was flagged as a replacement once Harding leaves in May.

TalkTalk founder Charles Dunstone, currently chairman at Dixons Carphone (DC.), will depart that role on 30 April, and is set to be replaced by former BT (BT.A) CEO Lord Ian Livingston.

Eastern European-focused budget airline Wizz Air (WIZZ) cut its full-year profit guidance due to low prices and disruption from severe weather that hit some of its services.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Beowulf Mining (BEM) became one of the biggest small cap fallers after an announcement from the County Administrative Board for Norrbotten, Sweden.

The company said its exploration concession application for Kallak North is being investigated. The stock dropped sharply by 43% before the shares were suspended pending further updates.

A revenue warning for the year to 30 June at oil and gas services firm Plexus (POS) caused the share price to drop 19.4% to 83p. It blamed difficult trading conditions in the oil and gas sector.

Investors were shocked after sound insulation technology firm Autins’ (AUTG) CEO left the business. In a double whammy of bad news, a major customer cut previous orders so it will not meet forecasts this year to September 2017, causing the stock to crash by 31.7% to 151.6p. Autins joined AIM in August 2016 at 168p per share, which valued the business then at £37m.

Investment company Kennedy Ventures (KENV) raised £1.25m for use by its investee firm Aftan to implement plant enhancements identified by Aftan.

AI marketing platform Adgorithms (ADGO) dropped by 25% to 16.5p after revealing an adjusted EBITDA loss of approximately $8m.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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