LONDON (SHARECAST) - Stocks are in negative territory now as investors digest a raft of company statements against a backdrop of ongoing worries about the debt situation in the US and in Europe.
Investors are also digesting news that the US House of Representatives has voted through a bill to raise the debt ceiling in the first stage of a two-step process designed to avoid the country defaulting on its debt. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, the OECD says that the recent EU deal will only make a tiny dent in Greece’s huge debt pile.
In company news, Barclays is in demand today even though it saw income and profits fall in the half year to 30 June after the “lacklustre” economic environment hurt income generation in many of the bank’s major markets. Pre-tax profits for the period fell to £2.64m from £3.94m over the same period the previous year on total income that slipped to £15.24m from £15.73m.
Miners are under the cosh though, notably Xstrata, whose profits soared in the half year to 30 June as continuing growth in emerging Asian economies and the recovery in the West boosted commodity prices. Operating EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) rose to $5.82bn from $4.49bn over the same period the previous year on revenues that rose to $16.77bn from $13.6bn.
Soaring precious metals prices boosted profits at Mexican silver and gold miner Fresnillo in the six months to 30 June. Total revenue rose to $1.056bn (£644.5m) from $605.7m the previous year, while earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to $757m from $394.3m. But it too is in the red.
Today’s main miner in the spotlight though is Centamin Egypt, whose second quarter gold production was hurt by supply interruptions. It has cut its full-year output estimate to 200,000 to 210,000 ounces from a previous prediction of 250,000 to 290,000 ounces.
Shares in engineering group Rotork steamed ahead after record revenue in the six months ended 30 June led the firm to raise its expectations for the full year. The company, which makes valves for the oil and gas, power and water industries, said that revenue grew by 8.7% from £183.5m to £199.4m, while the order intake was up by 22.5% in the period, with each division seeing record levels.
Sponsoring the hit TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ helped Moneysupermarket.com, another strong riser today, maintain its status as one of the country's best known price comparison websites to post a sharp rise in profits in the half year to 30 June. Pre-tax profits climbed to £8.8m from £2m over the same period the previous year on revenues that rose to £91.7m from £71.6m. The company announced a special dividend of £20m, or 3.93p a share.
Sausage skin maker Devro is sizzling after it reported a rise in profits in the six months to 30 June, helped by growing meat consumption and increased use of collagen cases in place of pricier sheep guts. Pre-tax profits rose to £19.6m from £16.5m on revenues from continuing operations that climbed to £107.1m from £104.6m.
Inter-dealer broker Tullett Prebon is wanted after being given the go-ahead to buy Convençao S/A Corretora de Valores e Câmbio, a leading inter-dealer brokerage in Brazil. Approval from the Brazilian President brings to an end a nine-month journey over regulatory hurdles.
Oil and gas explorer Petroceltic International’s shares slumped 16% after it found the maximum gas flow rate in its AT-5 well at the Ain Tsila field in south east Algeria to be lower than pre-test expectations.
But elsewhere in the sector, shares in Dominion Petroleum gushed higher after it said it won a licence to explore for oil in an area of the coast of Kenya.
“With Block L15 now added to its portfolio of exploration assets in offshore East Africa, Dominion holds a leading exploration portfolio in the deepwater East African margin by now operating 3 blocks in Tanzania and Kenya,” the company said.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,810.00p +4.38%
Barclays (BARC) 226.25p +4.26%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,444.00p +1.98%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 618.60p +1.83%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 590.50p +1.03%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 702.50p +1.01%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,564.50p +0.87%
National Grid (NG.) 595.50p +0.85%
British Land Co (BLND) 586.50p +0.77%
Unilever (ULVR) 1,942.00p +0.62%