FTSE cautiously ahead as comm. property, oilies gain

London stocks are camped out just above their opening levels as political uncertainty across Europe and in the US give rise to investor caution. In UK, commercial property and oil majors are in northbound focus, with pharmas and utilities near the fray, too.

Towards noon, FTSE 100 was up 20.56 points, or 0.29%, to 7209.38, while FTSE 250 was up 1.26, or 0.01%, to 18,607.3. At 11.37am, WTI crude was up 0.99% to $52.86/bbl and Brent was up 0.96% to $55.65/bbl. Gold was up 0.15% to $1241.40/oz, with silver up similarly and copper down.

Mondi (MNDI) guide blue chips north with a 1.44% surge to 1796.5p, and was chased by Barclays (BARC), ahead 1.42% to 228.15p. Thereafter commercial property was in the spotlight behind Land Securities (LAND), up 1.41% to 1040.5p, and Hammerson (HMSO), up 1.2% to 569.25p.

Aviva (AV.), up 1.19% to 499.9p, has sold its 50% shareholding in life insurance joint venture Antarius to Sogecap for £425m.

Oil majors rose with crude, BP (BP.) adding 1.36% to 462.15p and Shell (RDSA) firming 0.98% to 2142.25p. Several rates-sensitive utilities were marching higher after National Grid (NG.), ahead 1.03% to 967.55p. Pharmas rose after Glaxo (GSK), up 1.23% to 1581.75p.

However, Smith & Nephew (SN.) fell 2.79% to 1167.5p as it booked a FY pretax profit of $1.06bn, from $559m, but failed to meet management's views. It noted tough market conditions in China and the Gulf states.

Overall, blue-chip risers and fallers were about evenly split. Several sectors figured on both sides of ledger. To the downside, miners were thick on the ground after Anglo American (AAL), down 2.63% to 1296p, and Antofagasta (ANTO), lower 2.03% to 819.5p.

BHP Billiton (BLT), up 0.5% to 1348.25p, has approved expenditure of $2.2bn for its share of the development of the Mad Dog phase 2 project in the Gulf of Mexico. It holds a 23.9% participating interest in the Mad Dog field.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Germany's trade surplus for 2016 rose to a record €252.9bn, the country's Federal Statistics Office said. This print beat a previous high of €244.3bn.

BIGGER MOVERS

Baron Oil (BOIL), up 20% to 0.45p, expected the farm-in deal for Block Z-34 in Peru by Union Oil & Gas Group to be completed within 10 days.

Innovaderma (IDP) rose 22.53% to 155p as it swung to an H1 pretax loss of £0.154m, from a profit of £0.004m, on one-off exceptional listing costs and strategic initiatives to expand and scale the business. Its revenue soared 125.5% to £3.2m.

Hvivo (HVO) dropped 16.79% to 192.63p as it said Phase IIa studies PrEP-CS-002 and PrEP-CS-003 did not meet their primary endpoints, but provided valuable insights for PrEP-001 and build on the profile of the drug following the previously reported positive proof of concept trials in flu and the common cold.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Wishbone Gold (WSBN) fell 15.15% to 0.7p as it noted an overall transformative and successful year, but noted that while volumes were good in 2016, margins were pressured due to India's change in import rules.

RPC (RPC), up 5.62% to 999.5p, has proposed buying Letica Group and a fully underwritten rights issue to raise gross proceeds of about £552m. Guscio (GUSC), down 8.7% to 2.62p, said the process to complete the change of its name to GoTech Group has been completed. It would, from 8am tomorrow, have the ticker GOT.

Thomas Cook (TCG), down 6.43% to 86.13p, has made a solid start to FY 2017 with Q1 revenue rising to £1.62bn, from £1.41bn. Its loss from operations for the three-month period was £67m, from £78m.

Northbridge Industrial Services (NBI), down 8.18% to 123.5p, saw the result for 2016 broadly in line with management views, but issued cautious commentary on the impact of oil's pricing and Brexit-hit sterling.

Ashmore (ASHM), up 5.99% to 338.1p, said its H1 assets under management stood at US$52.2bn at end-December 2016, down from $52.6bn at end-June. Pretax profit rose 94% to £121.5m. Interim dividend per share was held at 4.55p.

Pennon (PNN), up 3.55% to 845.5p, said directors considered the company would deliver trading performance consistent with its expectations and prior guidance.

Redx Pharma (REDX), down 4.82% to 39.5p, has proposed raising £12m gross via a placing of up to 20.5m shares and a subscription of 11.5m shares by Lanstead Capital L.P., both at 37.5p a share. Net proceeds would allow Redx to continue to progress its drug pipeline.

Henderson Group (HGG), down 2.33% to 211.85p, said assets under management rose to £101.0bn in the year to end-December, up 10% on last time. Underlying Pretax profit fell to £212.7m, down from £220.0m. Total dividend for the year would be 10.5p a share.

Other stocks in the news included Dairy Crest (DCG), Enterprise Inns (ETI), Commerzbank Aktiengesellschaft (CZB), Plus500 (PLUS), DFS Furniture (DFS), Frutarom Industries (FRUT) and Scisys (SSY).