StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices trudged higher to midday, the blue chip and mid cap barely above earlier session lows, with direction provided by a string of pharmas, miners insurers and commercial property. China economic concerns lingered as a damper to progress.

To noon, FTSE 100 was up 12.24 points, or 0.2%, to 6070.78. FTSE 250 was up 7.48, or 0.04%, to 16,847.8. At 11.44am, WTI crude was down 2.22% and Brent was off 1.35%. Three-month industrial metals prices were flat, but copper fell 1.29% and tin rose 3.38%.

Ashtead Group (AHT) led blue chips up with a 5.83% gain to 970.5p on a strong Q1 with underlying pretax profits of £161m, up 23% at constant exchange rates. Underlying EBITDA rose by 25% to £282.7m and underlying operating profits were also up 25% at £180.2m.

Hikma (HIK) led pharmas up with its 4% rise to 2314p, and was followed by Glaxosmithkline (GSK), up 1.2% to 1310.5p, and Astrazeneca (AZN). Miners made gains in the wake of Antofagasta (ANTO), up 2.52% to 589p, as gold traded around $1139/oz. Trailing were BHP Billiton (BLT), up 2.32% to 1080.5p, and Anglo American (AAL), up 1.75% to 696.4p.

Insurers plotted a northbound course with Admiral (ADH) rising 0.66% to 1526p, while commercial property limped higher behind Land Securities (LAND), up 0.94% to 1235.5p. Also gaining were several utilities led by Severn Trent (SVT), up 0.86% to 2057.5p. Roughly 40 blue chips fell behind Glencore (GLEN), off 3.56% to 128.75p.

Supermarkets trailed Sainsbury (SBRY), which lost 1.32% to 234.75p, while oil majors slipstreamed Shell (RDSA), down 1.01% to 1621.5p. Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered (STAN) was down 1.52% to 713.2p, with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HSBC (HSBA) following.

BIGGER MOVERS

Jubilant (JUB), up 33.33% to 0.5p, said its operating subsidiary company in India has entered into funding arrangements with Jubilant Energy Private Ltd for unsecured loan facilities totalling about $2.34m.

SpaceandPeople (SAL), up 14.29% to 88p, has won exclusive rights to promote brands across all Network Rail stations in the UK for five years. Halfords (HFD), down 9.97% to 459.15p, said cycling sales in the eight weeks to Aug. 28 fell against tough comparatives and were expected to be below current market views for the quarter.

ECONOMIC NEWS

UK's construction purchasing manager's index (PMI) came in at 57.3 for August, against expectations for 57.6 and from 57.1 previously, data from Markit showed.

Euro zone's producer price inflation printed in line with forecasts at -0.1% in August, unchanged from its previous reading.

The number of jobless people in Spain rose 21,700 in August, marking the first rise since January. In July, unemployment fell 74,028.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Diploma (DPLM), down 7.72% to 660.25p, expects reported revenues for the year to Sept. 30 to rise about 9% with acquisitions incrementally contributing around 10%, offset by a reduction of about 2% in revenues from translational currency effects.

Stratmin Global Resources (STGR) jumped 7.03% to 3.88p after striking a deal to sell up to 35% of its Loharano mine and processing operations for £2m to Australia's Bass Metals. Johnson Service Group (JSG), up 2.73% to 94p, reports another strong performance for H1 with adjusted operating profits up 20.2% at £11.3m.

Range Resources (RRL), up 5.26% to 0.6p, has advised the vessel carrying the first new 4000m rig has arrived at the port in Trinidad. This is the largest rig to be added to Range Resources Drilling Services Limited (RRDSL) drilling fleet this year.

Empyrean Energy (EME) lost 4% to 6p as it revealed lower output from its 3%-owned Sugarloaf asset in Texas. Q2 production was down marginally year-on-year due to flooding. CEB Resources (CEB), down 3.9% to 0.74p, said initial goals of its '100 day plan' have been achieved. Work continues apace in Indonesia.

ASOS (ASC) rose 1.54% to 3030p on confirmation visionary founder Nick Robertson has stepped down as CEO after 15 years. He was staying with the business as a non-exec director, while COO Nick Beighton succeeded him in the hot seat.

Ryanair (RYA), up 2.15% to 12.38p, has lifted its August traffic by 10% to 10.4m customers, against 9.4m customers in the same month a year ago. Rolling annual traffic to August grew 15% to 96.3m customers. Load factor in August rose to 95%, from 93%.

Other stocks in the news included Fishing Republic (FISH), Ariana Resources (AAU), Velocys (VLS), Tandem (TND), Avon Rubber (AVON), Aggreko (AGK), Concurrent Technologies (CNC), Rare Earth Minerals (REM), LiDCO Group (LID), Mwana Africa (MWA) and Severfield (SFR).




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