StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks had a directionless open on Wednesday as strength in the utility sector was offset by weakness among miners.

At 0903, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 4.26 points at 7.621.48, on a relatively sleepy day for corporate news.

United Utilities and Centrica posted gains of 3.4% and 3.3%, respectively, while Antofagasta and Fresnillo shed 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively.

Oil services company Petrofac rose 2.3% after investors looked past a net loss caused by write-downs and focused on rise in new contract wins, including a $600m deal to provide engineering services in Algeria.

Fellow marine services company James Fisher and Sons rose 2.9%, after its first-half profits jumped by more than a quarter.

Diploma gained 4.1% after the technical products supplier said it remained on track to deliver on full-year expectations, while revealing that Richard Ingram had stepped down as chief executive.

The Gym Group shed 2.2%, as higher costs relating to the acquisition of easyGym sent the fitness company's profits south.

Software group Micro Focus International rallied 3.3% as it kicked off a share buy-back programme with an initial tranche of up to $200m.

Building materials group CRH gained 1% after it launched the second phase of its €350m buy-back programme.

Remote tracking group Starcom fell 8.8%, as higher share-based payments to executives offset growing revenue to send it to a first-half loss.

Restaurant owner Richoux Group said it expected to post flat first-half revenue, as the temporary closure of outlets for refurbishments and tough market conditions weighed. Its shares were unchanged.

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