StockMarketWire | 31/07/2015 - 21:40
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The FTSE 100 ended July on a bullish note with a fourth day of gains. At the close the "blue chip" equity index was up 27.41 points, or 0.41%, at 6,696.28. The FTSE 250 improved by 156.4 points, or 0.89%, to 17,677.4.

Wall Street was little changed in early trading. The Dow was 7 points higher at 17,753, the Nasdaq rose 17 to 5,146 and the S&P 500 improved 3 to 2,112.

The Greek debt crisis was back in the news with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicating that it was very wary of making any financial contribution to the latest bailout plan and insisting again that there needs to be debt restructuring.

Lloyds Banking (LLOY) slipped 3.28% to 83.2p as its 28% rise in pre-tax profit to £1.2 billion in the six months to the end of June was lower than the £1.8 billion expected. In addition the high street and commercial bank put a further £1.4 billion aside to pay compensation for mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI).

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was almost unchanged at 342.2p but Barclays (BARC) was 0.66% ahead at 288.95p.

International Airlines Group (IAG), the owner of British Airways, revealed that quarterly pre-tax profits to the end of June had grown by 25%. It also hopes shortly to complete the acquisition of Aer Lingus. After rising initially its shares fell back and were 1.48% lower at 534p.

BIGGER MOVERS

The powerful run at retail star JD Sports Fashion (JD.) continued, the shares jumping 7.97% to 806p as further upgrades followed news that full-year pre-tax profit will be 10% ahead of analysts’ £110 million consensus estimate. This follows a stellar first half from the sports, fashion and outdoor brands purveyor, with like-for-like sales tracking ahead of forecasts.

Medicine re-developer Oxford Pharmascience (OXP:AIM) plummeted 16.67% to 7.5p on tests showing that its OXPzero 250mg tablet does not reduce gastrointestinal tract irritation to the level expected. Further studies are in the pipeline.

Bingo-owner Stride Gaming (STR:AIM) surged 9.23% to 242.5p on news it is acquiring Israel-based mobile social gaming company InfiApps for $39.2 million. Stride says the deal is immediately earnings enhancing and gives it exposure to the fast growing social gaming market, particularly in the US, Canada and Australia. InfiApps generated pre-tax profit of $3.4 million in 2014.

Aircraft charter broker Air Partner (AIR) rose 8.26% to 417.88p as a market update informed investors that first half pre-tax profit is set to almost double to £2 million.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Inflation in the eurozone has remained at 0.2%, according to this month's figures from Eurostat, the statistics agency.

Energy prices again fell but there were increases in manufactured goods.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Royal Mail (RMG) found some buyers after a tough week for the stock which included a claim from regulator Ofcom that it had ‘distorted competition’ in the mail market. Shares were up 2.48%, to 505p, helping the stock regain some of the week’s earlier losses.

ITV (ITV) rose 3.35% to 280.7p. This followed the decision by Liberty Global to raise its stake in ITV to 9.9% although it confirmed it does not intend to make an offer to acquire.

BG Group (BG.) was up 1.2% to 1,092.5p despite producing first half earnings before interest and tax that were down by 60%.

Antofagasta (ANTO) was down 2.33% to 567p on news it has agreed with Barrick Gold to take a 50% stake in Compañia Minera Zaldívar Limitada. It will become the operator of the Zaldivar copper mine - will pay a total of $1,005m in cash consisting of US$980m upon closing, subject to customary adjustments, and five annual payments of US$5m per year, starting in 2016.

Essentra (ESNT) dropped 4.95% to 912.5p following half year figures that showed operating profits fell to £50m from £54m in the same period last year and pre-tax profits were down to £45m from £49m.

Learning Technologies Group (LTG) dropped 2.13% to 23p after agreeing to acquire Eukleia Training, a provider of e-learning to the financial services sector.

Balfour Beatty (BBY) climbed 2.17% to 235.7p after its joint venture with NG Bailey was appointed as preferred bidder for the £460m Hinkley Point C power station electrical package, for EDF Energy.

Colt Group (COLT) posted a first half loss before tax and before exceptional items of €13.0m (H1 2014: profit of €13.6m), with the movement due to the inclusion of Colt Asia results, foreign currency movements and incremental depreciation. Its shares were little changed at 188p.

Travel company Minoan (MIN:AIM), which is planning a resort in Crete, climbed 4% to 9.75p on a slightly more positive set of interim results following its profit warning two weeks ago. The group’s pre-tax loss widened from £694,000 to £759,000 in the six months to 30 April due to an increased charge for depreciation and amortisation.