StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 enjoyed modest gains amid a raft of mostly positive corporate news, trading 0.1% higher at 7,327 around midday.

Notable blue-chip risers included high street bank HSBC (HSBA) and Standard Chartered (STAN).

Brent crude oil was up 0.6% at $74 per barrel.

Department store operator Debenhams (DEB) was in the spotlight following underwhelming half year results and another downgrade to earnings guidance. Its shares eased back to 23.2p after an initial sharper fall this morning. Finance director Matt Smith also resigned in order to move to Selfridges.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

There was a subdued performance in Wall Street overnight, while Asian equities made gains across the board.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Weir (WEIR) benefitted from continued strong momentum in its first quarter and announced the $1.28bn acquisition of mining equipment parts maker ESCO. The pumps and valves specialist also revealed it will sell its flow control division, helping the shares surge 5.1% to £22.26.

Components distributor Essentra (ESNT) confirmed it is expected to return to like-for-like sales growth and margin expansion this year, prompting investors to mark the stock 4.6% higher to 451.4p.

Consumer goods colossus Unilever (ULVR) shed 2.1% to £38.65 on concerns the company is focusing too much on pricing power instead of volume growth.

Defence contractor Ultra Electronics (ULE) reported the UK Serious Fraud Office has opened a criminal investigation into 'suspected corruption in the conduct of business' by the firm in Algeria. Its shares lost 7.7% of their value to £12.81.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Clinical stage biotech firm ValiRx (VAL) announced positive results from its VAL101 studies, which were shown to be effective in inducing programmed cell death in cancer cell models. The stock rallied 18.2% to 3.2p.


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