StockMarketWire.com - London stocks got off to a negative start ahead of Bank of England's benchmark interest-rate call at midday, after the US Federal Reserve last night hiked its rate. There was plenty of corporate news about, but there was also a lengthy list of ex-dividends.

Soon after the open, FTSE 100 was down 1.25 points, or 0.02%, to 6947.94, while the FTSE 250 was up 35.81, or 0.2%, to 17,646.6.

At 8.39am, WTI crude was up 0.04% to $51.06/bbl and Brent was up 0.5% to $54.17/bbl. Gold was down 2.18% to $1138.3/oz, while silver flopped 3.49% to $16.62/oz. Industrial metals were mostly higher.

Gold-sensitive miners led blue chips south, Fresnillo (FRES) losing 7.42% to 1092.5p and Randgold (RRS) shedding 5.85% to 5592.5p. Falls among other metals diggers were more muted; BHP Billiton (BLT) off 1.88% to 1330p and Angofagasta (ANTO) down 2.18% to 705.25p.

Most of the US rates-sensitive utilities were softening. United Utilities (UU.) dropped 3.08% to 864.5p, while National Grid (NG.) eased 2.26% to 901.25p. Other sectors notably lower included commercial property, consumer goods, house builders, some leisure and tobacco.

To the upside, the story was inked by Centrica (CNA) and financials. Centrica (CNA), up 2.47% to 224.3p, expects to exceed its 2016 targets following a strong second half performance. It said it continues to make good progress against its strategic priorities.

Thereafter, banks rose after Barclays (BARC), ahead 2.25% to 226.75p, and RBS (RBS), up 2% to 221.75p. Standard Life (SL.) added 1.25% to 365.1p, while Direct Line (DLG) rose 1.22% to 352.75p.

NEWS OF NOTE

Bunzl (BNZL), down 0.74% to 2018p, said overall trading for the year to the end of October is consistent with expectations at the time of the third quarter trading statement.

London Stock Exchange (LSE), up 0.09% to 2721.5p, and Deutsche Boerse confirmed they have received a statement of objections from the European Commission in relation to the proposed merger, reflecting a narrower scope of issues.

Go-Ahead Group (GOG), down 0.56% to 2118p, said FY expectations for its rail division are slightly below its previous estimates due to higher than expected costs associated with the GTR franchise and increased bidding activity in targeted markets overseas.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), up 0.41% to 2144.75p, said that Simon Henry will conclude his service as Chief Financial Officer of the company and will be succeeded by Jessica Uhl.

BIGGER MOVERS

Falanx (FLX), up 12% to 7p, saw further progress in its Q3, in line with the guidance given in its interim results.

StratMin Global Resources (STGR), up 9.09% to 1.5p, has agreed to an immediate discounted cash settlement of the share payments from Bass Metals Ltd under the 6 June 2016 Share Purchase Agreement (SPA).

Thalassa (THAL), up 8.54% to 44.5p, subsidiary WGP Group Ltd has been awarded a contract from ConocoPhillips Skandinavia AS to acquire seismic data sets on the Eldfisk field in the North Sea in 2017.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Parity (PTY), up 6.3% to 10.63p, said its momentum has continued and that it now expects FY EBITDA to be slightly ahead of its original expectations. Communisis (CMS), up 5.73% to 41.5p, has been awarded the contract for all outbound customer communication by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Hochschild Mining (HOC), down 5.14% to 230.5p, said production at its Pallancata mine in Peru has temporarily stopped due to a road blockade by members of a local community demanding the renegotiation of existing agreements for land easements.

Redde (REDD), up 4.24% to 163.13p, said its strong start to the year has continued through into December, and that trading profits remain ahead of its own expectations and the corresponding period last year.

GVC Holdings (GVC), up 4.23% to 641p, expects pro-forma NGR for the year to 31 December and adjusted/clean EBITDA to be at the upper end of market expectations. It said the strong trading performance previously reported has continued through Q4. fourth quarter.

Petrofac (PFC), down 4.18% to 872p, said in a pre-close trading update that its FY net profit is expected to be c.$410m in 2016, in line with previous guidance.

Trading Emissions (TRE), up 3.23% to 4p, confirms the completion of the sale of a portion of the Italian solar portfolio, held through subsidiary TEP (Solar Holdings) Ltd, to Sonnedix Santa Lucia Srl, a member of the Sonnedix group of companies.

Other stocks in the news included Tate & Lyle (TATE), Haynes (HYNS), SigmaRoc (SRC), JD Sports Fashion (JD.), Sphere Medical (SPHR), PZ Cussons (PZC), Condor (CNR), Liontrust Asset Management (LIO), SyQic (SYQ), Just Eat (JE.), ezzsteel (AEZD), RPC Group (RPC), Bunzl (BNZL), BBA Aviation (BBA), Fletcher King (FLK) and Impellam (IPEL).




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