MIDDAY REPORT: Headline shares pared early gains by midday, with a flurry of largely positive blue chips earnings unable to offset weakness in the mining sector and a mixed performance from banks.
At midday, the FTSE100 was up just 2.97 points at 5,721.86 with the FTSE250 off 14.1 points at 11,320.4 and the FTSE Smallcaps 15.44 points better at 3,115.37.
US stock futures are pointing to a negative start after disappointing Eurozone business confidence and ahead of the latest weekly jobless data.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures lost 17 points at 13,019, S&P500 futures dropped a point at 1,385 and Nasdaq 100 futures eased 4 points at 2,699.
Upbeat comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke overnight proved to be a catalyst for optimism today, while investors tried to absorb a flurry of blue chip earnings.
Barclays kicked off the bank reporting season with a forecast-beating rise in first-quarter adjusted pretax profits to just under £2.5bn. The group raised its PPI provision by a further £300m and warned of tough times ahead. Barclays shares slipped 1.5p at 209.5p. Elsewhere, Lloyds dipped 0.165p at 30.33p and Royal Bank of Scotland edged up 0.22p at 23.44p.
Staying in the financial world, hedge fund manager Man Group added 0.05p at 95.25p as vague bid rumours persisted.
First quarter earnings at oil major Shell beat expectations, jumping to $7.279bn from $6.288bn in the prior year period. Shell shares advanced 74.25p at 2,263.25p on the news, while BP ticked up 6.6p at 438.9p and BG Group improved 8p at 1,420p on the read across.
Mining issues were mostly negative, but Randgold Resources was the best of the sector, up 200p at 5,545p, and Fresnillo gained 12.5p at 1,609.5p as the price of gold edged up.
Meanwhile, Rio Tinto slipped 38.25p at 3,441.75p and Vedanta Resources sagged 26.5p at 1,198.5p.
Household goods conglomerate Unilever jumped 62.5p at 2,141.5p, after reporting sales growth of 8.4% in Q1 and saying it was on target for the full-year.
Cigarette maker British American Tobacco added 13.75p at 3,162.75p after reporting increased revenues and volumes but warning currency headwinds have adversely affected results. Peer Imperial Tobacco gained 16.5p at 2,515.5p in sympathy.
However, coffee-house to hotels group Whitbread topped the leaderboard. rising 72p at 1,881p after full-year sales and profits beat expectations as the Costa coffee chain continued to grow.
On the downside with blue chips, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was the worst performer on the main index, tumbling 160.5p at 2,680.5p as first-quarter profits slumped 38%, hit by competition from generics. The company also announced the departure of its CEO in June. Peer GlaxoSmithKline eased 10.25p at 1,403.25p.
Aerospace engineering group Meggitt eased 1.4p at 408.6p, despite revealing pretax profit growth of 26% in the first quarter.
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