StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices continued sideways near midday, albeit mildly lower, as a pall of caution hung over the market ahead of UK Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement at 12.30pm. A mixed bag of blue-chip resources, financial and retail-related stocks were in focus.

Near noon, FTSE 100 was down 9.81 points, or 0.15%, to 6732.29. FTSE 250 was down 1.28, or 0.01%, to 15,831.7. Osborne is expected to make announcements on spending and financial matters, these likely ranging from devolution of northern towns to tax avoidance measures.

Shell (RDSA) topped the top-100 fallers, off 1.81% to 2250.5p as chatter about a possible merger between it and BP (BP.), off 0.55% to 431.48p, continued. Energy stocks Petrofac (PFC), BG Group (BG.) and Tullow Oil (TLW) followed. Metals burrowers were mixed, Antofagasta (ANTO) falling 0.64% to 736.25p and Rio Tinto (RIO) up 1.08% to 3009.25p.

Sage Group (SGE) led blue chips up with a 5.27% gain to 424.45p as its FY pretax profit soared 69.1% to £278m, from £164m. Total dividend was 12.12p a share, from 11.32p. Several retailer-sector players gained, but others fell. Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) lost 1.19% to 5187.5p, while Morrisons (MRW) added 0.82% to 184.4p.

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) helped financials lower with a fall of 1.21% to 977.5p. Insurers were guided down by Prudential (PRU), off 0.4% to 1546.25p, and banks were mostly captained to the downside by HSBC (HSBA), off 0.53% to 632.35p.

BIGGER MOVERS

Shares in Ultrasis (ULT) collapsed as it faced real danger of going out of business. It said that it could not raise new cash by January 2015 it would likely have to close up shop entirely. The shares slumped 36% to 0.08p.

Universe (UNG), up 11.54% to 7.25p, has confirmed a major new contract with supermarket Morrisons. The contract, for the design and build of the loyalty platform for Morrisons new price match and points card 'Match & More', began earlier in 2014 and has been rolled out.

WH Ireland (WHI) said whilst its underlying trading performance has improved slightly on last year the board now expects adjusted operating profits to be below its previous expectations. Shares in WH Ireland sagged 12.17% to 83p.

Golden Saint Diamonds (GSR) fell 22.7% to 0.63p after it confirmed the purchase of a local washing plant to assist the sponsored Artisanal Miners to begin the washing of the gravels in the Zimmi-sponsored licences.

Maple Energy (MPLE) was down 20% to 2p after subsidiaries responsible for its ethanol business failed to meet a five-day waiver from senior lenders in respect of payment obligations under an existing loan agreement. It continues to work with the senior lenders.

ECONOMIC NEWS

UK services purchasing managers' index (PMI), which is compiled by Markit/CIPS, rose to 58.6 in November, following October's contraction to 56.2 in October. Meantime, British Retail Consortium/Neilsen's Shop Price Index fell 1.9% in the year to end-November, unchanged from October. Food prices fell 0.2% over the same period.

Euro zone's services purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to 51.1 in the last quarter, from 51.3 in the preceding three months. The market had expected the index to remain unchanged. Elsewhere, retail sales in the single-currency bloc rose 0.4% in October from September, data from Eurostat showed. The market had expected a rise of 0.6%.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Just Eat (JE.) suffered as a group of shareholders behind its IPO earlier in the year raised £139m by selling a 7.7% stake. The 43.5m shares were sold at 320p, compared with Tuesday’s close of 343.05p. The stock slid 8.65% to 309.85p.

Character (CCT) rose 10.56% to 246p after reporting a FY pretax profit of £7.11m, from £0.2m. Revenue jumps 46% to £97.89m driven by demand for its key ranges. Sales in the lead up to Christmas were ahead of expectations and it is proposing a final dividend of 3.95p a share.

API (API) tumbled 8.72% to 44.5p on a £0.33m drop in H1 pretax profit, driven by a 24% fall in revenues at its US foils business. FY profits were expected to be 10% lower than previous expectations, but the interim dividend was hiked 7.1% to 0.75p a share.

International Greetings (IGR) fell 7.24% to 70.5p despite delivering a 7.1% hike in H1 pretax profit to £4m. Investors festered over lower sales of £111.9m, from £113.6m, caused by forex movements, a slight decline in gross margins and the absence of forecast upgrades.

Summit (SUMM) fell 3.02% to 112.5p as pharma investor Jim Mellon quit as a non-executive directed. He remained a shareholder. Meantime, DJI (DJI) rose 2.5% to 102p on news it intended to list its shares on another bourse – either Hong Kong or the US – in the next 12 months.



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