FTSE falls 0.6% in early trade as inflation fears persist

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UK stocks opened lower on Wednesday following a slightly weaker-than-expected monthly economic growth reading that wasn't low enough to dull inflation fears.

At 0820, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 39.28 points, or 0.6%, at 7,090.95.

The UK economy returned to growth during the month of August, following a contraction in July, with gross domestic product up 0.4%, just shy expectations of 0.5% rise.

House builder Barratt Developments gained 3.3% to 662.8p even after it reported a fall in year-to-date home completions and private reservation rates.

Barratt, however, said the falls were expected, given it was recycling a resurgence in demand following the completion of the UK's first national lockdown, and reaffirmed its earnings forecasts.

Hedge-fund manager Man Group rallied 4.6% t 212.2p as it reported record funds under management for the September quarter, underpinned by fresh inflows into its funds.

Man's quarterly funds under management rose 3% year-on-year amid net inflows of $5.3 billion and positive investment performance of $0.4 billion.

Cybersecurity company Darktrace firmed 2.0% to 857p, having upgraded its annual revenue outlook thanks to a weaker-than-expected currency headwinds.

Darktrace's year-over-year revenue growth was now expected at between 37% and 39%, up from 35% to 37% previously.

Advertising company WPP reversed 1.1% to 972.4p following news that its Finsbury Glover Hering unit had agreed to acquire New York public-relations agency Sard Verbinnen & Co.

WPP said the deal valued the combined group at $917 million and Sard Verbinnen & Co. at $303 million.

Pub company Marston's slid 1.0% to 72.1p despite it seeing a return to sales growth in the fourth quarter of its financial year compared to the same period in 2019 following an easing of lockdowns.

In a trading update for the year through 2 October, Marston's said sales in the final three months of that year had risen 2% across its managed and franchised pubs compared to 2019.

Online retailer THG, also known as The Hut Group, rose 3.2% to 294.2p after it told the market it knew of no notifiable reason for a recent slump in its share price.

THG, which had on Tuesday held a capital markets event at which no material new information was disclosed, reminded investors that it had consistently delivered ahead of targets set at the time of IPO.

Interior design and furnishings group Sanderson Design dropped 7.6% to 195p even as it swung to a first-half profit after sales bounced back as lockdowns eased.

Sanderson Design reinstated its interim dividend at 0.75p per share.

Flooring retailer Victoria gained 2.9% to £10.29, having upgraded its annual earnings guidance after benefitting from a rush of redecorating and a hot property market.

Victoria's underlying pre-tax profit for the year through 2 April 2022 would be ahead of consensus market expectations, the company said.

Footwear retailer Shoe Zone jumped 14% to 75.65p on guiding for a swing to a full-year profit following a recovery in sales in the second half and tighter spending.

Pre-tax profit for the year to 2 October would be no less than £6.5 million, Shoe Zone said in a trading update, compared to the £14.6 million recorded a year-on-year.