Miners struggle on lower commodity prices

Weaker commodities pushed blue-chip miners lower with Fresnillo (FRES) and Rio Tinto (RIO) suffering the biggest hits of 5% and 1.6% respectively.

Small advances in Primark owner Associated British Foods (ABF), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and AstraZeneca (AZN) failed to offset the weaker performance elsewhere.

In the UK, service sector growth fell to a five-month low in February as input cost inflation reached its highest level in eight and a half years. Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index fell from 54.5 in January to 53.5 in February.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil stood at $52.78 and $55.34 per barrel, respectively.

Gold and copper were flat at $1,231 per ounce and $5,908 per tonne. OVERSEAS MARKETS

US stocks closed approximately 0.5% lower on Thursday despite temporary video message app Snapchat performing well on its trading debut.

Construction firm Caterpillar was raided over an alleged tax evasion tax scheme and was the biggest faller on the Dow Jones.

All stock markets followed the US lower, including Asia.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

London Stock Exchange (LSE) reported a 17% rise in total income for 2016 to £1.65bn. It said work continues on the proposed merger with Deutsche Borse, but investors are starting to believe the deal won’t happen.

Media giant WPP (WPP) disappointed the market with a slow start to 2017. Management said January like-for-like revenue was only up 1.5% and blamed strong comparative figures a year earlier.

This overshadowed a strong set of full year results for 2016 with headline pre-tax profit up 9.1% excluding foreign currency rates and a hike in the dividend by 26.7%.

AztraZeneca’s biologics R&D arm MedImmune agreed to develop and commercialise monoclonal antibody MEDI8897 with Sanofi Pasteur, nudging the shares higher.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Ultra Electronics (ULE) signed a tentative agreement with China’s CGN clean energy group to co-operate on the development of systems for the civil nuclear power industry in various countries.

Operating profit at industrial linen processor Berendsen (BRSN) was up 5% to £161m last year, but excluding currency exchange rates, this was actually 4% lower. The market was not fooled and the share price fell 16% to 781p.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Musical instruments retailer Gear4Music (G4M) believed it will deliver full year profit ahead of previously upgraded forecasts in January. It enjoyed strong growth in Europe and kept costs under control.

West African miner Kodal Minerals (KOD) said it will start drilling a lithium prospect in the next few days and potentially issue a maiden resource statement later this year, causing the stock to soar by 20%.

Budget airline Ryanair (RYA) unveiled decent traffic numbers for February with 10% growth, but this failed to move the share price.

Nanotechnology enhancing solutions Graphene NanoChem (GRPH) received a firm commitment for the deployment of its oilfield recovery additive PlatSurF from a Middle Eastern oil and gas firm.

Intercede (IGP) cautioned that losses for the year to 31 March 2017 may be higher than expectations if it fails to get further orders in the current year. Investors ran for the exit, causing the stock to fall by 16%.

Recruiter Harvey Nash (HVN) reported full year results for the year to January 2017 will hit market expectations, although the underlying business wasn’t progressing, which was exposed by constant currency figures.

Gross profit was down 1% in the year with weakness in Asia failing to be offset by gains in mainland Europe.

Sales are expected to exceed €18m at Venn Life Sciences (VENN) for 2016, ahead of analysts’ €16.5m forecast. Strong momentum continued in 2017 with €5.7m worth of new contracts signed in January and February.

Trakm8 (TRAK) announced it will raise £1.66m via placing new shares at 65p each, which was a huge 17.2% discount to its share price last night. The company said it needs the money to reduce debt and strengthen working capital.

Shareholders should expect a reward from broadcaster STV (STVG) as it reported a 50% hike in its dividend to 15p per share. It coincided with news that its consumer division delivered its highest margin for 11 years, despite a weak airtime market in the second half of 2016.

Premier Veterinary (PVG) warned the market it needs an extra £2m to fund US expansion and help take the group to sustainable profitability and cash generation.

It commenced talks to sell its Premier Buying Group division to raise cash and pay down debt, but there was no guarantee of a sale. Investors felt optimistic as the stock jumped 11.7% to 275p.

Velocys (VLS) sealed a deal with Morimatsu for the latter to be its preferred supplier of engineering and fabrication services for gas-to-liquid plants.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com