StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 started to recover from earlier weakness thanks to stronger housebuilders and banks, but closed flat at 7,282.

Housebuilder Persimmon (PSN) benefitted from strong demand as pre-tax profit jumped 25% to £966m. It also revealed a bumper three-year package of dividends, prompting investors to mark the shares 4.6% higher to £26.04.

The news lifted shares in peers Taylor Wimpey (TW.) and Berkeley (BKG) by approximately 0.8% each.

Barclays (BARC) was up 1.7% at 212p and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) advanced 0.8% to 270.4p.

Brent crude oil slid 1.4% to $66.54 per barrel. Gold fell 1.2% to $1,313 per ounce and copper dropped 1.6% to $3.15 per pound.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

Investors were awaiting new Federal Reserve head Jerome Powell's first appearance in front of Congress, leaving Wall Street treading water in the interim. The S&P 500 dipped 0.2% to 2,773 around 5pm UK time.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Sky (SKY) rallied 20.3% to £13.30 on a £22.1bn cash bid from US media colossus Comcast. The takeover offer is higher than the one tabled by 21st Century Fox.

The market overlooked downbeat 2018 margins at Virgin Money (VM.) and instead focused on a 28% rise in pre-tax profit. The stock gained 5.7% to 279.5p.

Elementis (ELM) reported higher sales and profitability, driven by growth in its Personal Care division and the acquisition of SummitReheis. Shares in the chemicals specialist were broadly unmoved at 280.8p.

Elsewhere, Croda (CRDA) delivered record profit thanks to a strong performance in all its sectors and major regions. The stock was flat at £45.49 on a lack of a special dividend payout, but the dividend was hiked 9.5% to 81p.

A wider product range and new store openings helped boost sausage rolls seller Greggs (GRG), up 1.5% at £12.92. The bakery chain delivered a 2% increase in profit in line with expectations.

Industrial thread manufacturer Coats (COA) said it expects operating profits this year to benefit from the full year contribution from the Patrick Yarn Mill acquisition and first year benefits from its new strategy. The stock accelerated 11.1% to 83p.

Meggitt (MGGT) warned of continued pressure in its energy-related business and the impact on margins from new accounting rules. Shares in the aerospace engineer dropped 3.3% to 451p.

Power generation firm Drax (DRX) reported core earnings beat expectation thanks to a strong contribution from the acquired Opus Energy business and higher profit from its biomass plants.

A £300m rights issue and a settlement with the Financial Conduct Authority at Provident Financial (PFG) caused the shares to catapult 70.4% to £10.02.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Abaco Capital (ABA) announced the board anticipates returning capital to shareholders, pushing the shares 14% higher to 1.4p.


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