Utilities keep FTSE afloat

An upbeat write up on the owner of British Gas, Centrica (CNA), and United Utilities (UU.) from investment bank Credit Suisse helped keep the FTSE in positive territory.

Centrica (CNA) rose 3% to 146.1p and United Utilities (UU.) increased 2.2% to 817.8p.

The FTSE 100 traded 0.4% higher at 7,724.

Brent crude oil slid 0.9% to $67.46 per barrel.

New car sales declined for the first time in six years in 2017 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Pendragon (PDG) reversed 1.6% to 27.3p and Vertu Motors (VTU) fell 2.6% to 49.3p.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

In the US, there was weaker than anticipated jobs growth in December but this failed to stop the stock markets from rallying on Friday. The Nasdaq had the biggest rise, trading 0.6% higher at 7,122 around 4:40pm UK time.

MID AND SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Insurer Admiral (ADM) declined 2.9% to £18.72 following a downgrade from analysts at JP Morgan.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Shares in oil and gas explore Regal Petroleum (RPT) soared 81.7% to 13.9p after boosting oil production by 65% at its fields in Ukraine in 2017.

Investors in onshore UK oil and gas firms were left disappointed after the Planning Inspectorate unexpectedly upheld a decision to block development on the Wressle oil discovery in Lincolnshire.

The companies behind the project, Egdon Resources (EDR) (operator with a 25% stake), Union Jack Oil (UJO) and Europa Oil & Gas (EOG) were all sharply lower on the news. Egdon sank 17.5% to 6.7p, Union Jack was down 25.8% to 0.12p and Europa fell 14% to 4.9p.

Contractor Keller (KLR) jumped 8.6% to £10.42 after revealing its earnings are set to benefit from the recent US tax reform. The company said it was in talks to acquire US rival Moretrench in a bid to boost overseas growth.

US tax reform also provided a tailwind for Abcam (ABC). Shares in the life sciences specialist were up 6% to £10.89 on an expected one-off tax credit of between £6m and £7m and strong trading.

The market was apparently hoping for earnings upgrades from musical instruments retailer Gear4music (G4M). The stock fell 6.7% to 720.5p despite strong trading over the Christmas holidays.

Johnson Service (JSG) advanced 1.7% to 144p following the announcement that full year results are expected to beat management expectations thanks to good trading. The protective clothing provider also acquired catering linen business StarCounty to boost its presence in the North West and the West Midlands.

Butcher Crawshaw (CRAW) warned that a softer consumer environment and uncertain cost inflation would continue to drag on profitability. The news overshadowed record sales in the week before Christmas as the stock shed 12% to 10p.