StockMarketWire.com - UK share markets plunged farther and faster in late afternoon trade to close firmly in the red as a slow start to US trading failed to lift ongoing worries over US interest rate cuts following the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting.

Worries about the fragility of the global economy were also evident in data from Europe on Thursday, where Germany's private sector continued to struggle in August. The negative tone dragged on key commodity markets too with oil prices reversing earlier gains to go into reverse.

At the close, the benchmark FTSE 100 ended the day down 76 points (1%) lower at 7,128.18.

LARGER COMPANIES ON THE MOVE

Doing its best to prop-up up the market is private hospitals operator NMC Health, which soared 17.5% to £22.76 after it emerged that two groups, one backed by China's Fosun, are competing to buy a 40% stake in the company, potentially 'at a premium to the market price'.

NMC shares were trading at a 12-month low yesterday, having fallen by around 30% this year. The company also released strong first half results with revenues up 32% to $1.24bn and underlying net income 30% higher at $151m, as well as announcing that it would buy back up to $200m of its own shares.

Copper mining giant Antofagasta slipped 0.3% to 816.8p even as it said core earnings jumped in the first half of the year amid higher copper sales volumes. But falling copper prices and a cautionary outlook kept a lid on investor optimism.

The miner also said the outlook on the copper market remained uncertain amid the ongoing US-China trade war.

Bingo-to-casinos firm Rank rallied 11.5% to 169.8p after earlier posting a slump in full-year profits as a tough first half offset gains in the second half of the year.

Drugs developer AstraZeneca lost earlier gains to end down 1.2% at £73.24 after it said its drug to treat anaemia in non-dialysis-dependent patients suffering from chronic kidney disease had received marketing authorisation in China. It also said it had agreed to buy a US Food and Drug Administration priority review voucher for $95m in cash from a subsidiary of Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

ViiV Healthcare, a GlaxoSmithKline-Pfizer joint venture, said its injectable HIV treatment had met its primary goal in a clinical trial, reducing the number of treatments needed every year, compared to an oral treatment. Glaxo's share price drifted 0.5% to £16.76.

Premier Oil jumped more than 9% to 78.98p after it reported an increase in first-half earnings on the back of higher production and left its full-year output guidance unchanged.

South32, the coal group spun-out of BHP, slumped more than 7% to 144.86p after it posted a fall in full-year earnings as lower aluminium and thermal coal prices more than offset an increase in production volumes and cost-reduction initiatives.

Building materials supplier CRH lost around 2.5% at £26.03 despite saying it would continue its share buyback programme following the group's first half profits jump. The performance was led by good showing by its heritage business and strong contributions from recent acquisitions.

MOVERS AMONG SMALLER COMPANIES

Pantheon International ended the day flat at £22.90 after it reported a 3.4% monthly increase in net asset value per share to 2,487,6p as at 31 July 2019 as valuation gains, investment income and foreign exchange movement more than offset expenses and taxes during the period.

Animal genetics company Genus declined 12p, or 0.4%, to £25.86 after it said Stephen Wilson, currently group finance director, had been appointed as chief executive with effect from the close of business on 13 September 2019.

Infrastructure investor John Laing slumped nearly 6% to 359.2p as it reported an uptick in half-yearly net asset value despite a slump in half-yearly profits as a number of challenges with its renewable energy assets in Australia and Europe hurt performance.

Capital Drilling rose 2.7% to 57p after it reported a slight uptick in core earnings as a decline in average revenue per operating rig kept a lid on performance.

Solar farms investor Foresight Solar nudged 0.4% to 123.5p after it reported a fall in net assets in the first half of the year driven by a downward revision of UK power price forecasts.

Aviation, energy and civil engineering group Stobart added 2% to 113p after it said it had entered into a five-year partnership with low-cost airline Wizz Air with three new routes set to operate from London Southend Airport, which it owns.

Anglo Asian Mining rallied 9.5% to 149.5p after it confirmed media speculation that it had been in talks with the Government of Azerbaijan concerning a possible transaction of the company's subsidiary R.V. Investment Group Services. The company stressed, however, there was no certainty that the talks would lead to a deal.

Altus Strategies stayed flat at 4.75p after it said it had signed a non-binding term sheet with Glomin Services for a joint venture on the company's Lakanfla and Tabakorole gold projects located in western and southern Mali respectively.

Engineering business Goodwin saw its share price rise 1.5% £34.80 after it reported a rise in profits and said a significant rise in sales orders within its mechanical engineering division had bolstered its order book to a record level.


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