- The FTSE 100 was down 0.14% to 7,095.25 by midday, surrendering earlier gains driven by strong oil prices and sterling weakness.

The tobacco stocks, Imperial Brands and British American Tobacco, contributed to the weakness of the index, down by mid-to-high single digits in percentage terms on reports the US is preparing a ban on menthol cigarettes.


Alcoholic drinks firm Diageo fell 0.8% to £27.24 after it announced it would sell 19 brands, including whisky Seagram's and liqueur Sambuca, to Sazerac. Proceeds of £340m would be returned to shareholders via a buyback.

Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca gained 1.6% to £62.73 on news clinical trials indicated that its diabetes drug had significantly reduced the risk of hospitalisation for heart failure.

UK funeral group Dignity shed 7% to 971p as intense price competition sent its third-quarter operating profit down 39%.

Engineering services company Babcock International climbed 2.1% to 613p after it denied speculation concerning its financial health published by the 'so far untraceable Boatman Capital'.

Sirius Minerals fell 0.8% to 23.68p as it confirmed it was hunting for financing for its flagship fertilizer project in Yorkshire after it awarded a key construction contract to Strabag.

Online gambling software supplier Playtech added 1.8% to 469p as it stuck to its most recent full-year guidance, though trading in Asia remained subdued.

Restaurant Group fell 5.3% to 238.4p after it launched a discounted £315m share issue to help fund its acquisition of Wagamama.


Building services provider Northern Bear gained 2.4% to 81.6p as it posted a 23% rise in first-half profit, supported by a strong performance at its roofing and specialist services division.

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