StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices were mixed to midday, despite starting positive, after Bank of England issued a note of caution on the impact of the widely expected US rates hike next week. Ashtead (AHT) was in focus as several miners and US rates-sensitive utilities stole higher.

To noon, FTSE 100 was up 8.07 points, or 0.13%, to 6143.29. FTSE 250 was down 22.27, or 0.13%, to 17,169.6. At 11.41am, crude was up about 1% or more, while gold and copper were at USD1078/oz and USD207/lb. European bourses were mildly lower.

Ashtead (AHT) soared a compelling 7.81% to 1111.5p as it booked H1 pretax profits up 20% to GBP 331.9m. Several big-ticket miners were firming behind Rio Tinto's (RIO) rise of 2.51% to 1940.5p, driven by value buyers, but sector buddies Anglo American (AAL), off 9.19% to 293.9p, and Fresnillo (FRES), off 5.16% to 634p, tanked.

Utilities firmed as traders began anticipating a US rate hike next week into their deals. National Grid (NG.) added 1.1% to 920p, while SSE (SSE) firmed 0.53% to 1432.5p. Several insurers gained after Old Mutual (OML), but others were lower. Pharmas trailed Glaxosmithkline's (GSK) rise, and property stocks followed Hammerson (HMSO) and Barratt Developments (BDEV).

Others in these sectors were fallers. Overall, about 44 blue chips were lower. These including supermarkets after Tesco (TSCO), down 1.23% to 154.63p. Several banks tapered in the wake of Standard Chartered (STAN), lower 1.61% to 511.25p.

In the news, RSA Insurance (RSA), down 0.48% to 428.05p, has signed contracts, subject to regulatory approvals, to sell its entire shareholding (c.75%) of Joint Stock Company Intouch Insurance (RSA Russia) to Joint Stock Insurance Company Blagosostoyanie for about GBP5m cash.

BIGGER MOVERS

FinnAust Mining (FAM), up a stellar 154.55% to 1.4p, has signed a binding agreement to acquire an initial 60% interest in Bluejay Mining. Rose Petroleum (ROSE), down 18.18% to 0.09p, said it has implemented a radical cost cutting programme across the group to preserve its cash reserves in response to sector dynamics.

LiteBulb (LBB), diving 40.52% to 8.63p, has reported two of its divisions are experiencing a difficult Q4, which is expected to result in a shortfall in group revenues of about GBP3.3m compared with directors' expectations in September.

Focusrite (TUNE) twanged 16.84% lower to 158p on concerns about slower-than-expected initial sales of new products in Q1 of the new financial year and the weaker euro. FY pretax profit rose 12% to GBP6.5m. It has proposed a maiden final dividend of 1.2p, making 1.8p for the year.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee said in its meeting minutes that a US interest rate hike next week could lead to the possible volatility of capital flows to and from emerging markets.

Germany's seasonally adjusted trade surplus fell to 22.5bn euros in October, as exports and imports declined, from 22.8bn euros in September, data from Federal Statistical Office showed.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

On the Beach (OTB) was up a sunny 13.26% to 190p as its maiden FY results revealed a 46.5% rise in underlying pretax profit to GBP14.5m, accompanied by a surge in revenue. The group, which floated in September, will soon launch in Norway and start offering long-haul holidays.

Stagecoach (SGC) crashed 13.47% to 308.15p as it blamed cuts to its FY forecasts on last month's Paris terror attacks, citing passengers' reluctance to travel to major cities.

Entertainment One (ETO) rose 11.75% to 157.45p as it elaborated on the reasoning for a poorly received refinancing. Its CEO bought more than GBP0.18m worth of shares. The release hints strongly at M&A activity.

Alternative Networks (AN.), up 9.91% to 445.13p said FY pretax and operating profits were 33% and 31% higher at GBP13.8m and GBP15.1m respectively. Proposed FY dividend was 16.4p a share, up 13%.

Computer Sciences Corp (CSC) subsidiary CSC Computer Sciences International Operations has agreed a 190p a share offer for Xchanging (XCH), up 9.67% to 192.75p, valuing that latter group at GBP480m.

EasyHotel (EZH) climbed 7.81% to 69p on a 38% rise in FY pretax profit to GBP0.79m, driven by strong performances at its owned hotels in Glasgow and London’s Old Street. The board has proposed a maiden final dividend of 0.33p a share.

Bilby (BILB), up 7.14% to 127.5p, has declared a maiden H1 dividend of 0.75p a share. Revenues rose 103% to GBP11.62m. Pretax profit was GBP0.07m, from GBP0.69m. AFH Financial (AFHP), down 7.41% to 175p, has raised up to GBP6.5m gross via a placing of 2.7m new shares and a subscription of up to 1.2m new shares at a discounted 165p each.

Balfour Beatty (BBY), up 2.82% to 269.8p, said its 'Build to Last' transformation programme continues to gain traction, as new standardised processes and controls are rolled out across the businesses. It expected to be net cash positive at year's end.

Other stocks in the news included Savannah Resources (SAV), Alpha Pyrenees Trust (ALPH), Ophir Energy (OPHR), Petra Diamonds (PDL), Carillion (CLLN), Netcall (NET), Share (SHRE), Sophos (SOPH), Flowgroup (FLOW), Scholium (SCHO), Croma Security Solutions (CSSG), ULS Technology (ULS), Vectura (VEC), Tritax Big Box REIT (BBOX), Workspace (WKP), BBA Aviation (BBA), Devro (DVO), Redhall (RHL), Motive Television (MTV), Scholium (SCHO), SolGold (SOLG) and Begbies Traynor (BEG).

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