FTSE flat ahead of Budget

Investors were cautious ahead of the Budget on Wednesday, causing the FTSE to remain flat at 7,322.

High street banks Lloyds (LLOY) and Barclays (BARC) were among the top risers.

Pharma giants Shire (SHP) and Hikma (HIK) were still weak following US President Donald Trump’s threat to cut drug prices.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil slipped 0.8% to $52.86 and $55.49 per barrel, respectively.

Gold retreated 0.2% to $1,212 per ounce and copper was stabled at $5,754 per tonne.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

On Wall Street, healthcare firms such as Pfizer and Merck closed by up 1% lower on Tuesday on the news. As a result, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 continued to underperform.

Japan’s economy grew faster than expected in its fourth quarter, but this didn’t stop the Nikkei 224 declining 0.5% on Wednesday as investors were cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting this month.

Shanghai’s SSE Composite index closed flat, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bucked the trend and rose 0.4%.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Car insurer Admiral (ADM) used its full year results to fully quantify the impact of changes to the Ogden rate. The rate, used to calculate compensation payments for victims of car accidents, is being cut from 2.5% to -0.75%. Profit would have been up 3% without the change, but ended up falling by a quarter for 2016.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Funeral provider Dignity (DTY) slumped 13.5% to £23.89 as alongside otherwise solid 2016 results it revises down its underlying earnings growth target from 10% a year to 8%. The change reflects the increased size of the group and growing competition.

Frankie & Benny’s owner Restaurant Group (RTN) rose by 8.4% as investors warmed to its turnaround story. The company left its full year dividend unchanged despite an 11.2% drop in adjusted pre-tax profit for 2016 and falling like-for-like sales.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

London-focused estate agent Foxtons (FOXT) struggled as its 2016 pre-tax profit declined by more than half year-on-year to £18.8m. Management cautioned that 2017 sales volumes will be below 2016 if activity remains at current levels for the remainder of the year.

Israeli tailoring firm Bagir (BAGR) jumped 21% as it swung into profit, posting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $1.6m for 2016.

Small cap oil and gas company Europa Oil & Gas (EOG) sealed a farm-out agreement with a subsidiary of Cairn Energy regarding a 70% interest in operating Licensing Option 16/19 offshore Ireland.

Europa will retain the 30% interest in the license. The market was excited about the deal as the stock sparked 20% higher.

Mobile display tech business Attraqt (ATQT) nudged 3.2% lower to 46.9p following its re-admittance to AIM. Investors priced in the dilution associated with the placing at 35p a share to fund the reverse takeover of rival Fredhopper.

Solo Oil (SOLO) confirmed the Ntorya-2 appraisal well was successfully flow tested and was suspended for future gas production. However, flow rates were restricted for technical reasons, prompting a 13.6% drop in the share price.

Aminex (AEX), which has a 75% interest in the Mtwara license in Tanzania where Ntorya-2 was drilled, also fell 13%.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com