FTSE flat on weak financial stocks

Consumer goods brands colossus Unilever (ULVR) nudged the FTSE 100 higher but weakness in financial stocks Standard Life (SL.) and Lloyds (LLOY) prevented the index from gaining any real momentum.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil rose by 0.2% to $53.35 and $56 per barrel, respectively.

Gold was flat at $1,225 per ounce and copper fell 0.5% to $5,798 per tonne.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

In the US, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen hinted that an interest rate hike is on the cards this month, while shares of the parent company of temporary video messenger Snapchat dived following its IPO last week.

Despite huge initial demand for its shares, there was little endorsement from analysts concerning Snapchat’s outlook. The US markets closed lower on Monday.

Asian stocks followed cue from the US, with sentiment further undermined by concerns over Chinese economic growth.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Car insurer Direct Line (DLG) disappointed the market after revealing reduced 2016 profits, which was caused by the reduction in the Ogden discount rate.

The drop in the rate, which is used to calculate compensation payments to victims of car accidents, from 2.5% to -0.75% was more than the expected 1%. This was bad news as the lower the rate, the higher the lump sum required.

Direct Line raised the final dividend 5.4% to 9.7p, taking total dividends for 2016 to 24.6p, but this was half the 50.1p paid in 2015.

Sports gambler Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) continued to struggle with weakness in online gambling. Investors overlooked in-line 2016 results with group EBITDA up 35% to £400m.

Quality assurance provider Intertek (ITRK) rose 4.3% to £37.49 following a strong revenue, earnings and cash performance in 2016. The latter underpinned a 19.3% increase in the dividend to 62.4p.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Industrial dehumidifier equipment supplier Aggreko (AGK) reported full year pre-tax profits of £221m, approximately £1m light of the £222m consensus. It warned 2017 profits will be lower than last year due to the impact of pricing renegotiations in Argentina.

Embattled retailer Sports Direct (SPD) warned the devaluation of the euro against the dollar will hit its gross margin as it has no euro/dollar hedging in place for the next financial year.

Full year pre-tax profit from builders’ merchant Grafton (GFTU) was 8% better than expected, which was supported by a good show in Ireland and the Netherlands. Management was confident enough to open 10 new Selco stores this year and said it is looking for new acquisition opportunities.

The good news helped to push sector peer Travis Perkins (TPK) up 2.7% to £14.80.

Brickmaker Ibstock (IBST) announced its 2016 results beat expectations and anticipates developer clients in the UK to increase their activity levels.

Investors tucked into online takeaway service Just Eat (JE.), which fattened 6.8% as full year results confirmed a period of strong growth.

Management was optimistic in its outlook as it guided to 2016 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in a range of £157 to £163m. This was slightly higher than current consensus at £157.4m.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Spending management platform Blur Group (BLUR) entered final negotiations with a global electronics group for a multiple six figure on-boarding programme across three territories.

If the programme is successful, management said it could lead to a multi-year, multi-million dollar roll-out of its services. Investors were keen to take advantage of the potential opportunity as the stock soared 193% to 20p.

Construction support services provider Mountfield Group (MOGP) unveiled an upbeat trading statement. It experienced a strong start to the year and expects to negotiate further pipeline works and contracts. The stock soared 43.8%.

Impatient investors are frustrated that there’s still a lot of work to be done at nickel-copper miner Amur Minerals’ (AMC) Kun-Manie programme as the stock dropped 13.4%.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com