StockMarketWire.com - News that the Chinese manufacturing sector kept expanding at a decent pace provided fuel for a mining rally, but this was partially offset by weakness in utility firms.

British Gas owner Centrica (CNA) was down 2.3% to 165.8p, while Severn Trent (SVT) and SSE (SSE) dimmed 1.8% and 1.3%, respectively.

The FTSE was flat at 7,490.

The UK Purchasing Manufacturing Index rose from 56 in September to 56.3 in October, driven by an increase in production and new order volumes according to IHS Markit. A figure over 50 implies growth, while under 50 represents contraction.

Brent crude oil slipped 0.4% to $60.70 per barrel. Copper jumped 1.3% to $3.13 per pound and gold was up 0.6% at $1,274 per ounce.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

In the US, investors were cautious ahead of the the latest meeting of US Federal Reserve on Wednesday. On Thursday, President Donald Trump is expected to pick his new Fed chair and reveal details of his tax reform plan.

The weakest performer was the Nasdaq, which nudged lower to 6,722 around 4:30 UK time.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Next (NXT) was in the spotlight after warning of a lack of visibility on fourth quarter sales in its third quarter update. Online sales were up 13.2% in the period while physical retail sales slumped 7.7% in the three months to 29 October. Shares in the fashion retailer fell 8.9% to £44.84.

Bank Standard Chartered's (STAN) third quarter revenue growth came in short of expectations. Investors were unhappy with the update and marked the shares 6% lower to 704.9p.

Sales at bookie Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) rose 9% to £440m and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation increased 7% to £121m. The market was feeling lucky as the stock gained 4.7% to £80.70.

Addiction treatment specialist Indivior (INDV) was a step closer to getting its drug RBP-6000 approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The company received an encouraging update after 18 out of 19 members on two advisory committees recommended approval. The stock soared 10% to 408.7p.

Annuity provider Just Group (JUST) was flat at 154.4p despite a fall in retirement sales from last year. Annuity sales declined from £414m from the third quarter of 2016 to £269m in the quarter to 30 September.

Packaging firm Smurfit Kappa (SKG) was up 0.6% to £22.57 thanks to 4% sales growth to €6.35bn in the third quarter. Pre-tax profit tumbled 9% to €170m as cost pressures took its toll.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Sportech (SPO) said the Supreme Court ruled in favour of HM Revenue & Customs and against Littlewoods and others concerning the latter's claim for compound interest on repayment of overpaid VAT. Despite Sportech reassuring the market that the ruling won't affect its operational progress, the stock fell 6.2% to 98.5p.

Construction firm Morgan Sindall (MGNS) hiked its earnings forecast thanks to better margins in construction, infrastructure and fit-out. The stock jumped 3.9% to £15 on the news.

Cellular materials specialist Zotefoams (ZTF) maintained its momentum of strong sales growth in the first half of the year through strong trading in the third quarter, triggering a 13.2% rally to 398.5p.

A new farm-out agreement for micro-cap oil play Nighthawk Energy (HAWK) excited investors. Shares in Nighthawk soared 80% to 0.4p.


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