StockMarketWire.com - London stocks opened southbound ahead of a speech later today by UK PM Theresa May on Brexit, with defensive metals gold and silver rising as sterling weakens.

Soon after the open, FTSE 100 was down 27.07 points, or 0.37%, to 7300.06, while FTSE 250 was down 61.2, or 0.33%, to 18,246.5p. Overall, about 77 blue chips were southbound. Yesterday, FTSE 100 snapped its two-week run of successive all-time closing highs.

Intertek (ITRK) led the blue-chip gang down with a 3.05% slide to 3454.5p. Thereafter it was chased by miners and oilies as jittery traders factored in a 'hard' Brexit to their positions.

Industrial metals-touchy Antofagasta (ANTO) fell 2.62% to 714.25p, while BHP Billiton (BLT) lost 1.57% to 1454.25p and Anglo American (AAL) eased 1.36% to 1337p.

Rio Tinto (RIO), down 1.21% to 3445.75p, has delivered a strong operational performance in 2016, underpinned by its drive for efficiency and maximising cash flow, says CEO J-S Jacques in a Q4 production update.

At 8.37am, Gold was up 1.46% to $1213.7/oz, much of this linked to its defensive appeal. Silver was up 1.64% to $17.04/oz, while copper dived 2.27% to 262.90 cents a pound.

Gold-sensitive stocks Fresnillo (FRES), up 1.11% to 1452p, and Randgold (RRS), up 1.32% to 6910p, benefitted from the surge in the yellow metal.

WTI crude was up 0.32% to $52.54/bbl and Brent was down 0.02% to $55.85/bbl. Both Shell (RDSA) and BP (BP.) were softer.

Other top-100 stocks falling included insurers, leisure, house builders, commercial property and supermarkets, but others in some of these sectors made gains.

Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered (STAN) rose 6.11% to 768.55p, while Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) firmed 1.12% to 217.3p. Also up were several airlines and utilities.

OTHER BLUE-CHIP NEWS

Provident Financial (PFG), down 0.75% to 2844.5p, expects to report results for 2016 in line with market views. Market expectations are for a group profit before tax, amortisation of acquisition intangibles and exceptional items of £333.9m.

British American Tobacco (BATS), up 0.37% to 4780p, and Reynolds American Inc have agreed the terms of a recommended offer for BAT to acquire the remaining 57.8% of Reynolds it does not already own.

AstraZeneca (AZN), flat at 4575.5p, has issued an update on its immuno-oncology late-stage clinical development programme in first-line non-small cell lung cancer, including a refinement of the Phase III MYSTIC trial.

BIGGER MOVERS

Distil (DIS) rose 21.74% to 1.4p as it reported significantly higher levels of sales during the third quarter including over the important Christmas period.

Learning Technologies (LTG) rose 14% to 42.75p as it said Fy profit was ahead of market views, with EBITDA margins firmly ahead of the company's strategic ambition of 20%.

Nature Group (NGR), up 11.11% to 11.25p, has sold its subsidiary in Gibraltar, Nature Port Reception Facilities Ltd (NPRF), to Gib Oil Ltd for cash consideration of £4m total.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

FairFX (FFX), up 10.29% to 37.5p, said turnover for the 12 months to Dec. 31, 2016, rose 27% and exceeded £795m, which was ahead of management expectations. DekelOil (DKL), up 8% to 13.5p, is to pay a maiden dividend in the first half of this year in respect of the year ended 31 December 2016.

Ergomed (ERGO), up 6.5% to 172p, expects to report very strong 2016 results with revenues up 26% and an order backlog of around £70m. W Resources (WRES), up 5.21% to 0.51p, announces some exceptional results at its Sao Martinho Gold project in Portugal. SMD-009 results have confirmed a very thick gold intersection of 56.4m at 2.34 grams per tonne (g/t) from the very shallow depth of 2.6m.

Cape (CIU), up 0.5% to 178.63p, said its Saudi Arabia operations have received a scaffold contract amendment to provide for an increased scope of 107,000 sqm of suspended scaffold and 182,000 cum tower scaffold with an extended hire term for the Jazan project.

Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH), up 4.58% to 1428.5p, said reported group revenue for the six months to end-December, 2016, rose by about 34% at constant exchange rates (56% at actual exchange rate).

Greggs (GRG), up 4.5% to 1046p, achieved its 13th consecutive quarter of like-for-like sales growth and expects FY results for 2016 to be slightly ahead of previous views. For the FY, total sales grew 7% and company-managed shop like-for-like sales grew by 4.2%.

7digital (7DIG), down 4.05% to 8.88p, said its results for the year are in line with market expectations, including a modest gain from the strength of the US dollar.

Roxi Petroleum (RXP), up 2.5% to 10.25p, said results from Well #142, and previously Well #141, are exactly as it had hoped for. Hotel Chocolat Group (HOTC), up 2.2% to 288.5p, said its total revenue for the 13 weeks to Dec. 25 rose 16.2% on the prior year (14.6% on a proforma constant currency basis).

Other stocks in the news included Sinclair Pharma (SPH), Miton (MGR), Velocys (VLS), Elegant Hotels (EHG), RhythmOne (RTHM), RWS (RWS), City of London Investment (CLIG), Avation (AVAP), Cairn Energy (CNE), dotdigital Group (DOTD) and Tullow Oil (TLW).




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