FTSE 100 northbound again as financials in focus

London shares opened on the front foot with the blue-chip index already showing potential to achieve its 14th successive all-time closing high amid sterling weakness and Brexit fears.

ITV (ITV) led with a 2.73% rise to 208.55p, and was chased by International Consolidated Airlines (IAG), up 1.91% to 488.35p. EasyJet (EZJ) rose 0.97% to 1046p.

Financials were in focus. Insurers were piloted by Old Mutual (OML), ahead 1.14% to 213.8p, with investment specialists guided by Schroders (SDR), rising 0.9% to 3035p.

Banks, commercial and residential property, leisure and multiple utilities also enjoyed gains.

Soon after the open, FTSE 100 was up 33.19 points, or 0.46%, to 7325.56, while FTSE 250 was up 29.35, or 0.16%, to 18,332.8. Blue chip risers numbered roughly 80.

At 8.27am, WTI crude was down 0.17% to $52.92/bbl and Brent was down 0.25% to $55.87/bbl. Gold was 0.26% lower at $1196.7/oz. Silver and copper were also retreating.

To the downside, gold-touchy miner Fresnillo (FRES) guided with a 2.6% dip to 1385p, and was chased by Antofagasta (ANTO), down 0.94% to 714.75p, and Randgold (RRS), down 0.63% to 6752.5p.

BIGGER MOVERS

Ariana Resources (AAU), down 10.53% to 1.7p, raised £900,000 gross in an oversubscribed placing of 56.25m new shares at 1.6p each. Net proceeds will be used to advance Ariana's projects outside of Kiziltepe, and to support ongoing working capital requirements.

SIG (SHI), up 7.3% to 100.65p, said group sales in 2016 were about £2,738m, a rise of 11.2% on the year, having benefited from forex movements (+6.9%), acquisitions (+3.7%), and working days (0.3%).

Mitchells & Butlers (MAB), up 5.46% to 274.4p, said its like-for-like sales growth for the year-to-date has increased to 1.7%, continuing to build on the progress reported earlier in the year.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Grafton (GFTU), up 5.09% to 568p, group revenue for 2016 was £2.51 billion, an increase of 13.4% on revenue of £2.21 billion in 2015 and 10.4% in constant currency.

Countrywide (CWD), up 4.63% to 178.13p, expects EBITDA for 2016 to be in line with the current range of market forecasts. Total group income for the year was circa £737m (2015: £734m) with income for Q4 of £179m (2015: £196m).

Iofina (IOF), up 3.8% to 10.38p, produced a total of 218.6 MT of crystalline iodine in the second half of 2016 from its five IOsorb plants. It said 2016 total crystalline iodine production was 474.2 MT.

Snoozebox (ZZZ), up 3.66% to 0.43p, announces that it will again be providing accommodation at the Isle of Man TT races being held 27 May to 9 June 2017.

88 Energy (88E), up 2% to 2.55p, has completed a conventional prospectivity review across Project Icewine in Alaska and results from 2D seismic interpretation continue to exceed expectations.

Electrical Geodesics (EGI), down 1.9% to 77.5p, expects revenues of about $14.3m for the year ended 31 December, up 5% on 2015 but despite H2 revenues being 9% lower than the record performance a year ago.

Other stocks in the news included Lavendon (LVD), Manx Telecom (MANX), Secure Trust Bank (STB), XP Power (XPP), Steppe Cement Ltd (STCM), Duet Real Estate Finance (DREF), Forterra (FORT) and Aurora Investment Trust (ARR).