- Utility stock Centrica (CNA) enjoyed nearly a 3% boost to 207.7p thanks to media reports that it was a takeover target.

Sector peer Severn Trent (SVT) advanced 1.9% to £22.08 as investment bank Morgan Stanley published a bullish research note on the water sector and named the stock as one of its preferred equities in the space.

The positive movements among utility stocks helped to offset weakness in the big oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and BP (BP.). The net effect left the FTSE 100 flat at 7,350.

Brent crude oil slumped 3% to to $46.62 per barrel. Gold fell 0.7% to $1,213 per ounce and copper declined 0.4% to $5,820 per tonne.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 100, parcel delivery group Royal Mail (RMG) fell 3.3% to 410.3p after investment bank UBS downgraded the stock to 'sell'. It said weak retail sales and lower e-commerce growth would work against Royal Mail, adding that letter volumes may also continue to decline.

On the property market, the pace of house price growth in the UK continued to slow in the three months to June. The annual rate of growth declined to 2.6%, marking the lowest rate since May 2013.


US equities opened higher today, supported by strong jobs data as 222,000 more people entered the workforce in June according to the US Labor Department. The S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 2,417.


Among the mid-caps on the UK stock market, cushions-to-curtains seller Dunelm (DNLM) was up 3.8% to 620p on strong like-for-like growth of 3.8% in the year to 1 July.

Defence group Ultra Electronics (ULE) struck a deal to buy US-listed Sparton for $234.8m. The target company offers manufacturing services for complex electromechanical devices. Ultra's shares were up 2.3% to £20.38.

Engineering data provider AVEVA (AVV) made a solid start to the year and reported good cash generation since 1 April. The update sparked the share price by 2.2% to £20.18.


Shares in oil services group Cape (CIU) catapulted by nearly 46% to 264.5p after it received a £332.3m takeover bid from Altrad UK.

Drinks specialist Distil (DIS) benefited from more rum sales as the weather heated up. Shares in the alcohol seller rallied 14% to 2.8p on strong growth in sales and volumes during the three months to June.

The outlook appeared brighter for magazine publisher Future (FUTR). The firm agreed to acquire Centaur Media's (CAU) home interest division for £32m, sparking a 11.2% share price gain to 277p. Centaur is using some of that money to buy telemarketing firm MarketMakers for £13.4m.

Shares in oil and gas engineer Fenner (FENR) jumped 9% to 317.5p after it said full year operating profit would be higher than previous expectations.

Story provided by