StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks edged higher in early trading on Tuesday after the local unemployment rate fell and bellwether companies Vodafone, Imperial Brands and Diageo posted pleasing earnings updates.

At 0822, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 6.06 points, or less than 0.1%, at 7,357.92.

The UK unemployment rate fell to 4.3%, down from 4.4%, according to the latest update from the Office for National Statistics. Average earnings rose 5.8%, above expectations of a 5.5% increase.

Telecom giant Vodafone rallied 4.3% to 117.36p after it posted a 34% fall in first-half profit, though its underlying earnings improved and it nudged up its annual guidance.

Vodafone's pre-tax profit for the six months through September decreased to €1.28 billion, down from €1.93 billion year-on-year, when it posted a €1 billion asset-sale gain in Australia.

Looking ahead, Vodafone narrowed its adjusted earnings guidance for the full year to the top end of the previous range of €15.0 billion to €15.4 billion. It held its interim dividend steady at 4.5c per share.

Tobacco giant Imperial Brands gained 1.9% to £16.29 even after it said it expected slower profit growth in the current financial year amid higher investment spending.

Pre-tax profit for the year through September rose to £3.24 billion from £2.17 billion year-on-year as revenue grew 1.4% to £3.15 billion and it banked a gain on the sale of its cigar business.

Imperial Brands declared an interim dividend of 139.08p per share, up 1% year-on-year.

Alcoholic beverage group Diageo firmed 2.2% to £39.01 on guiding for organic net sales growth of at least 16% in the first half.

The upbeat outlook reflected resilience in 'off-trade', which refers to home-based consumption, and continued recovery 'in on-trade', which refers to bars and other hospitality venues, Diagio said.

Commercial real estate company Land Securities added 1.4% to 719.8p after it swung to a £275 million first-half profit underpinned by higher rental income and a rise in the value of its assets.

Land Securities declared an interim dividend of 15.5p, up 29% year-on-year.

Grocery foods maker Premier Foods slumped 5.3% to 107.6p, having booked a 39% drop in first-half profit after an easing of lockdowns prompted people to stop cooking as many meals at home.

Premier's pre-tax profit for the six months through September fell to £30.7 million, though was still around double the figure posted two years' prior. The company also continued to chip away at its debt pile.

Wagamama owner Restaurant Group jumped 10% to 87.2p as it upgraded its annual earnings guidance amid a bounce back in sales.

Restaurant Group's adjusted pre-tax profit for the year through December was now expected to be between £73 million and £79 million.

Music and audio products group Focusrite rallied 7.3% to £16.095 after it posted a large rise in annual profit, as pandemic-related restrictions sparked high demand for home-recording equipment.

Focusrite declared a full-year dividend of 5.2p, up 24% year-on-year.

Bus and train company National Express reversed 0.5% to 240p after it was given more time to make a firm takeover bid for rival Stagecoach.

The extension, to 14 December, was granted as the two companies continue to complete due diligence. Stagecoach rose 1.1% to 77.23p.

Cocktail bars group Revolution Bars slid 6.2% to 25.05p, having booked a £26.3 million full-year loss after revenue were hammered by lockdowns, though it said sales recently have come bouncing back.

Revolution Bars said it had already exceeded the total revenue generated in the 2021 financial year of £39.4 million in the first 14 weeks of the 2022 financial year.

Music equipment retailer Gear4music warned on annual performance after first-half profit slumped amid longer-than-expected Brexit related supply chain challenges. Its shares fell 19% to 647p.

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