FTSE indices closed mildly firmer with Reed Elsevier (REL) the torchbearer, followed by a string of financial-sector stocks, as Wall St got off to a tepid start.
At 5 p.m., the FTSE 100 was up 23.31 points, or 0.34%, to 6821.46, and the FTSE 250 was up 22.73 points, or 0.14%, to 15,748.7.
In the US, the Dow was up 19 points to 17,106, the Nasdaq rose 8 points to 4482 and the S&P 500 added 4 points at 1991. In Asia, the Nikkei closed down 45 points at 15,284 and the Hang Seng was up 170 points at 24,142.
A steady-as-she-goes interim report from Reed Elsevier (REL) propelled the academic journals giant to the top of the FTSE 100 leader board, up 4.37% to 980p. It is in line to meet FY views. Analysts questioned its valuation versus Pearson (PSON).
It was followed by a string of financials, among them banks and insurers. HSBC Holdings (HSBA) rose 2.26% to 621p to lead the banks. Aviva (AV.) led the insurers, up 1.1% to 506p.
Miners were up, albeit off the pace. Chilean copper miner Antofagasta (ANTO) gained 1.56% to 847p as upbeat manufacturing data from China gave a lift to industrial metals prices. It was followed by Rio Tinto (RIO), u0p 1.49% to 3441.5p.
SABMiller (SAB) continued to drive strong NPR growth across the businesses in Q1. The company, its shares down 0.76% to 3340p, said this was achieved through its prolonged success in building local and global flagship brands across our broad geographic footprint, together with innovations and improved trade execution. Diageo (DGE) was up a tepid 0.01% to 1824.25p.
Consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR) lost 0.75% to 2663p as its H1 results statement got the thumbs down. CEO Paul Polman reported healthy underlying sales growth, though operating profits fell 209m euros to 3.4bn euros after a 413m euros currency hit. The boss also flagged a further slowdown in emerging markets, notably Asia, and warned developed markets 'are not yet picking up'. Same-sector rival Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) rose 0.2% to 5135p.
Maple Energy (MPLE) raced up a syrupy 83.33% to 16.5p, off earlier highs, on receiving an approach that may or may not lead to a cash offer. The approach was highly conditional and preliminary in nature.
Energy Technique (ETQ) said in the three months to June 30 sales rose 29% over the corresponding quarter. Its shares rose 21.28% to 285p.
Sales of US new single-family houses in June fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 406,000, estimates issued today showed. This was 8.1% below the revised May rate of 442,000 and 11.5% below the June 2013 estimate of 459,000.
The Markit Flash US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 56.3 in July, down from 57.3 in June. An increase to 57.5 had been forecast.
US initial unemployment claims fell to 284,000 in the week ending 19 July, down 19,000 from the previous week's revised level and the lowest level for initial claims since 18 February 2006 when they were 283,000. A fall to 310,000 had been forecast.
UK retail sales volumes in Q2 rose 1.6% between April and June, compared with the previous three months. They rose 0.1% in June from May, and by 3.6% from the same month a year ago. Forecasts were for respective rise of 0.3% and 3.9%. The FTSE 350 general retailers index was down 1.11%.
Germany's flash manufacturing PMI came in at 52.9 for July, against 52.0 previously and 52.0 expected, Markit data showed. Its flash services PMI came in at 56.6, against 54.6 previously and the 54.5 expected.
Low cost carrier EasyJet (EZJ) fell 4.99% to 1333p after revealing fares pressure. The Luton-based airline’s interim update said extra capacity at Gatwick was to blame, although investors were also unimpressed by a below expectations sales outlook.
Home improvement giant Kingfisher (KGF) slumped 7.49% to 310.85p as a downbeat Q2 trading update drove downgrades. This was the second quarter in a row to flop after its weather-boosted Q1 update disappointed.
Blue tooth semiconductor developer CSR (CSR) fell 8.18% to 308.5p on weak Q2 results. Core camera, gaming and automotive segments have faced struggles, while the company's voice and music revenues faced tough comparatives. Profitability continued to improve, with record underlying gross margins of 57.5% substantially up from last’s year’s 52.6%.
Branded soft drinks business Nichols (NICL:AIM) nudged 6.89% higher to 1000p on H1 results. The figures showed plenty of fizz with pretax profit, stripping out exceptionals, up 11% to £10m and the shareholder reward rises 12% to 7.1p.
Out-of-favour sweeteners giant Tate & Lyle (TATE) soured 0.91% to 656.5p as it flagged a testing Q1. A prolonged winter in the US, the unexpected shut down of its Singaporean 'SPLENDA Sucralose' factory and foreign exchange headwinds were blamed.