FTSE tiptoes higher as all eyes on US election

London stocks tiptoed higher in early deals as the market’s attention turns to the acrimonious US election contest between Democrat candidate Hilary Clinton and Republican hopeful Donald Trump, overshadowing UK’s non-binding Brexit soap for at least a few days.

Soon after the open, FTSE 100 was up 3.31 points, or 0.05%, to 6810.21, while FTSE 250 was up 22.32, or 0.13%, to 17,480.0. Risers outnumbered fallers roughly 63 to 37; most share-price moves were muted.

Associated British Foods (ABF), up 6.05% to 2639.5p to lead blue chips, reported a year of progress for all of its businesses with a substantial expansion in Primark’s selling space. Adjusted profit before tax rose 5% to £1.07bn, while dividends per share was up 5% to 36.75p.

Otherwise, it was miners, property, utilities and pharmas in focus. Randgold (RRS) added 1.87% to 6800p, while Intu (INTU) firmed 1.22% to 272.8p, United Utilities (UU.) gained 0.74% to 921.25p and Hikma (HIK) rose 2.44% to 1681p. Several of sector pals followed, but others fell.

To the downside, Imperial Brands (IMB) fell 2.62% to 3703.25p as it reported another strong FY performance with great results from its expanded US business. The dividend is up 109.1% at 155.2p per share. Operating profits were up 12.1% at £2.23bn.

M&S (MKS), up 1.63% to 354.7p, said its H1 statutory pretax profit fell 88.4% to £25.1m, from £216.0m. Interim dividend was 6.8p a share. It proposed about 60% fewer Clothing & Home stores in its UK estate, and internationally planned to cease trading in 10 loss-making owned markets.

Direct Line (DLG), up 0.66% to 352.2p, traded well in Q3 with good policy and premium growth. The company had maintained its underwriting discipline and reiterated that it expected to be towards the lower end of its 93%-95% combined operating ratio target range.

Aveva Group (AVV), up 0.06% to 1780p, said its revenue rose 3% to £84.3m in the six months to end-September. Adjusted pretax profits were broadly flat at £9.1m, from £9.3m. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), down 0.11% to 186.3p, announces, with agreement of the FCA, a new complaints process.

BIGGER MOVERS

Avocet Mining (AVM), up 23.48% to 71p, said a judge in Ouagadougou has ordered the lifting of the seizure of the gold shipment that took place on Oct. 7. It continues to explore solutions to resolve the $3.4m legal claim made by ex-employees against Societe des Mines de Belahourou SA. Steps are being taken to recover the seized gold for export and to reinstate normal gold shipments thereafter. It intends to resume operations at Inata later this week if possible.

Grafenia (GRA), down 25.71% to 6.5p, has posts an H1 operating loss before restructuring costs of £0.38m, from a loss of £0.10m a year ago, and a pretax loss of £0.41m, from a loss of £0.20m last time.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Getech (GTC), down 15% to 25.5p, said its FY pretax profits fell to £671,000, down from £1,992,000 last time.

Orogen Gold (ORE), up 14.71% to 0.02p, said the first hole of its step-out drilling programme at the Mutsk gold project in southern Armenia has intercepted gold mineralisation 160m south of previous drilling.

Venn Life Sciences (VENN), up 6.42% to 24.88p, has signed a new contract worth €2.5m with Sedana Medical AB.

Savannah Resources (SAV), up 5.71% to 4.62p, has announced an initial resource estimation over two of the four deposits defined at the Mutamba project, Mozambique. Initial Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource Estimate of 3.5bn tonnes at 3.8% Total Heavy Minerals.

Northern Bear (NTBR), up 5.5% to 48p, has improved its H1 pretax profit to £1.1m, from a profit of £0.9m. Its net bank debt fell to £2.0m, from £4.0m a year earlier.

San Leon Energy (SLE), up 1.8% to 42.5p, and Avobone N.V. and Avobone Poland B.V. have settled a number of ongoing disputes between them, and between certain of San Leon’s subsidiaries, in respect of various matters including a final award in an ICC arbitration dated 21 May 2015.

Telit Communications (TCM), up 1.6% to 253.75p, has increased its adjusted EBITDA and earnings per share guidance towards the middle and upper end of the previous range, as a result of better gross margin and operational cost discipline.

Other stocks in the news included Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT), Ceres Power (CWR), John Lewis of Hungerford (JLH), Paysafe (PAYS), Craneware (CRW) and Punch Taverns (PUB).

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