Oil prices slump on US shale concerns

Oil prices dropped by 2% but eased back as investors were concerned about growing shale production in the US, while the weak pound pushed the FTSE 100 0.4% higher to 7,247.

Gold gained 0.2% to $1,214 per ounce and copper declined 0.3% to $5,754 per tonne.

In the US, the S&P the Dow Jones nudged opened in the red. Wal-Mart and athletic footwear retailer Nike were among the top five fallers on the Dow Jones.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Shanghai’s SSE Composite closed in positive territory.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Publishing company Pearson (PSON) warned its performance was worse than expected in the North American higher education market. It said the dividend will be cut, but it may issue a special dividend if it can sell its 47% stake in Penguin Random House. Investors were shocked, leading to a 29% crash in its share price.

Shares in credit score checker Experian (EXPN) slumped as organic revenue for its UK Consumer Services declined in the three months to 31 December.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Mitie (MTO) issued its third profit warning since September 2016 after suffering contract delays and an underperforming cleaning division. The company reported that finance director Suzanne Baxter will be replaced by former Balfour Beatty (BBY) finance director Sandip Mahajan. Broker Liberum slashed Mitie’s earnings per share forecasts by 49% for 2017.

Investors were relieved that betting firm Ladbrokes Coral (LCL) managed to hit full year operating profit expectations despite a rubbish December for sporting results.

Budget-friendly pub chain Wetherspoon (JDW) said like-for-like sales rose by 2.3% in the three months to 15 January, but expects significantly higher costs in the second half of its financial year.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Trading profit was 10% lower than expected for the owner of the Mr Kipling brand Premier Foods (PFD). It blamed weak sales and a struggle to deal with high input by tweaking promotions and charging customers more for its products.

Audio visual solutions distributor Midwich (MIDW) gained 17% on expectations that its pre-tax profit will exceed previous targets, as the weaker pound boosted its trading momentum.

Aerial platform provider Lavendon (LVD) was still stuck in the middle of a bidding war. Loxam increased its bid again with an offer of 270p per share. A jump in Lavendon’s share price suggested the market is expecting its other suitor, TVH, to raise its bid.

Computer games chain store Game Digital (GMD) failed to level up as sales over its peak Christmas trading fell by 1.6%. Its shares fell 5.8% to 56.5p.

Sleep tracker developer Fitbug (FITB) soared 372% to 0.78p as investors toasted a one-year deal with an undisclosed Asian financial services group with 14,000 employees.

The lithium bug continued to spread across the AIM market with Blenheim Natural Resources (BNR) the latest contender. Its shares catapulted by 50.6% to 0.62p after being granted an option to buy a 30% stake in a lithium exploration project.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com