FTSE up on financials, comm. property, aided by US

London equities closed on a moderately positive note, helped in part by early gains on Wall St, in a session that has overall been laden with traders sensitive to political risk in Europe, UK and the US.

At the close, FTSE 100 was up 40.68 points, or 0.57%, to 7229.50, while the FTSE 250 finished up 21.52, or 0.12, at 18,627.6.

Financials, commercial property, pharmas and airlines were prominent among blue-chip risers.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) rose 2.515 to 233.1p, while Astrazeneca (AZN) firmed 2.02% to 4575p. Land Securities (LAND) added 1.85% to 1045p. More in these sectors chased.

Aviva (AV.), up 1.21% to 500p, has sold its 50% shareholding in life insurance joint venture Antarius to Sogecap for £425m.

Smith & Nephew (SN.) fell 0.17% to 1199p as it booked a FY pretax profit of $1.06bn, from $559m, but failed to meet management's views.

Also up were International Consolidated Airlines (IAG), by 1.77% to 488.8p, and easyJet (EZJ), yp 1.77% to 950p. Blue-chip gainers numbered a little more than 60.

At 4.39pm, WTI crude was up 0.9% to $52.81/bbl and Brent was up 0.54% to $55.42/bbl. Gold was down 0.35% to $1235.20/oz, with silver and copper also softer.

To the downside, the story was largely one led by miners. Anglo American (AAL) faltered 2.67% to 1295.5p, while Fresnillo (FRES) flopped 2.55% to 1529p. Their sector buddies followed.

BHP Billiton (BLT), down 0.24% to 1338.5p, approved expenditure of $2.2bn for its share of the development of the Mad Dog phase 2 project in the Gulf of Mexico. It has a 23.9% participating interest in the Mad Dog field.

House builders also figured southbound, led by Taylor Wimpey (TW.), off 1.36% to 173.8p. Utilities were mixed, as was the wider retail sector. Oil made moderate gains alongside crude.

ECONOMIC NEWS

The US Department of Labor said initial claims for the week to 4 February fell to 234k, a decrease of 12k from the previous week's unrevised level.

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 33.33% to 0.5p, 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 29.25% 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 17.93% to 190p 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), down 5.76% to 998p, has proposed buying Letica Group and a fully underwritten rights issue to raise gross proceeds of about £552m. Guscio (GUSC), down 4.35% to 2.75p, 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 7.71% to 84.95p, 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 5.02% to 335p, 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 3.49% to 845p, 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 1.84% to 212.9p, 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).