Unilever and Lloyds dominate FTSE 100

Investors were excited by Ben & Jerry’s owner and brand colossus Unilever’s (ULVR) announcement that it would review options to ‘accelerate delivery of value’.

This could involve special dividends for shareholders or selling parts of its business, prompting the stock to jump 5.7% to £37.91.

As Unilever is among the top constituents on the FTSE 100, it pushed the index 0.4% higher and offset losses among miners.

High street bank Lloyds (LLOY) reported its highest full-year profit in a decade and gained 4.4%.

Tobacco seller Imperial Brands (IMB) rose 0.8% as analysts resurrected a long-standing argument that it could be a takeover target for a Japanese peer.

Durex owner Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) was also among the top blue-chips as shares advanced 2.2%.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil were up to 1.6% lower at $53.52 and $55.74 per barrel, respectively.

Gold retreated 0.4% to $1,232 per ounce and copper cheapened 0.6% to $6,018 per tonne.

UK ECONOMIC GROWTH

The UK economy grew in the last quarter of 2016 as gross domestic product rose from 0.6% to 0.7%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Between November and December, the service industry expanded by 0.2%, which marked the seventh consecutive month-on-month growth.

On Wall Street, stock markets opened flat as deflated oil prices hit investor sentiment. The Dow Jones struggled with tech giant Microsoft among the top fallers.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index had a lacklustre day despite a rally in laptop seller Toshiba’s shares. Shanghai’s SSE Composite and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fared better and closed higher.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Britain’s biggest housebuilder Barratt Developments (BDEV) unveiled a 9% rise in first-half pre-tax profit despite building fewer homes. Critics highlighted the potential harm this may do to government efforts to boost housing supply amid a growing crisis, but this was overlooked by investors.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Recruiter Hays (HAS) remained confident for the rest of its financial year after reporting a 3% rise in first-half net fees, at constant currencies, on growth in Europe and Australia. Unfortunately, investors focused on its performance in the UK and Ireland, which continued to be challenging.

Public services provider Serco (SRP) failed to deliver to the market as underlying profit fell from £95.9m to £82.1m, which it blamed mainly on discontinued operations. It was the biggest mid-cap faller as shares tumbled by 18.4%.

Engineer Weir (WEIR) struggled as pre-tax profit fell by more than a fifth from £219m to £170m.

Addiction treatment business Indivior (INDV) reported operating profit more than halved from $346m in 2015 to $149m after exceptional costs of $238m. Its shares fell 6.6% to 345p.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

A puzzling $2m share subscription fundraising by security technology firm SerVision (SEV) sparked a 109% share price surge. US investor Cascade said it would pay 11.4p per share price, which was nearly fourfold the stock’s 2.76p closing price on Tuesday. The cash will be used to expand sales of the SerVision’s IVG40-N camera security product.

Software provider OneView (ONEV) sealed a multi-million dollar annual cloud-based hosting agreement with Discount Tire Corporation, prompting the stock to rocket by 54%.

Robotic process automation business Blue Prism (PRSM) jumped 11.8% to 500p on confirmation its revenue would be ‘materially ahead’ of expectations due to new business and upsells to existing clients.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

Merryn

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