LONDON (Alliance News) - The pound's ongoing slide helped to lift the internationally-weighted FTSE 100 on Wednesday, overcoming drags from Marks & Spencer and SSE following the release of their respective results. The FTSE 100 was up 34.25 points, or 0.5%, at 7,363.17 Wednesday midday. The mid-cap FTSE 250 was up 61.17 points, or 0.3%, at 19,497.53. The AIM All-Share was up 0.6% at 965.38.The Cboe UK 100 index was up 0.5% at 12,485.83. The Cboe UK 250 was up 0.3% at 17,516.64, with the Cboe UK Small Companies flat at 11,831.12."A weaker pound is helping to lift several FTSE heavyweights this morning as are comments from China, leaving a small door open for the US to resume trade talks with the country," said Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index."But as ever, US-China relations are not progressing in a straight line and instead could shortly become more complicated as the US is now looking to add Chinese video-surveillance companies to the list of blacklisted entities," she added.In European equities, the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt were up 0.3% and 0.5% respectively.In the US, stocks are headed for a subdued session, with the Dow Jones seen flat, the S&P 500 down 0.1% and the Nasdaq of 0.2%. Focus in the US economic calendar lies on the release of the latest Federal Reserve meeting minutes at 1900 BST.Released in the UK, inflation climbed above the Bank of England's target for the first time in 2019 on higher energy prices.Consumer price inflation accelerated to 2.1% in April from 1.9% in March, though was still slightly below consensus, as cited by FXStreet, of 2.2%.Boosting April's inflation rate were energy and gas prices, which helped to push consumer prices above the Bank of England's 2% target for the first time this year. However, the faster pace of inflation was unable to lift the pound. "The only thing which can save the sterling from the current punishment is a relief from Brexit chaos," said Naeem Aslam at ThinkMarkets. "It is a fortunate thing that the economic data hasn't fallen off the cliff yet otherwise lawmakers haven't left any option to create more uncertainty."UK Prime Minister Theresa May's regular session of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday will be followed by a statement on her "new Brexit deal", which has already received a less-than warm response from backbenchers.Her deal has been described as "dead on arrival", with the prospect of a larger Tory revolt than her previous failed attempt to get a Brexit agreement through Parliament. Rejection of the bill would heap further pressure on May to quit immediately, with some Tories calling on her to go now without even risking the humiliation of a fourth Commons defeat on Brexit.May's last-ditch attempt to get a deal through included offering a vote on whether to hold a second referendum, as well as a choice over the UK's future customs arrangements.The pound was quoted at USD1.2672 at midday, down from USD1.2760 late Tuesday.In London, Marks & Spencer continued to trail near the bottom of the FTSE 100, 4.2% lower at midday. The homeware, clothing and food retailer said pretax profit in the year to the end of March rose 27% to GBP84.6 million from GBP66.8 million a year earlier, thanks to the company's ongoing transformation programme. Meanwhile, M&S's revenue declined by 3.0% during the year to GBP10.38 billion from GBP10.70 billion reported a year earlier.In addition, the FTSE 100-listed firm is to launch a rights issue, setting out to raise over GBP600 million to fund its joint venture with online grocer Ocado Group.SSE dipped 1.5% as its annual results came in "well short" of expectations. The FTSE 100 utility's adjusted pretax profit slipped 38% year-on-year for the 12 months to March to GBP725.7 million, against analyst consensus of GBP807 million. SSE's revenue for the year was GBP7.33 billion, which has been reduced from GBP27.25 billion due to the company's adoption of the IFRS 15 accounting standard. IG Group Holdings and Pets at Home were vying for the top spot in the FTSE 250, both up 13% at midday. Online trading platform IG said it expects net trading revenue to be down 17% to GBP475 million in the 12 months to May 31 compared to the year before.This comes after lower levels of volatility and market activity continued in the final quarter from the third, though the first three weeks of May were said to have been more favourable. Pets at Home shares rose despite the retailer saying profit fell sharply in its most recently ended financial year.The pet supplies retailer reported pretax profit of GBP49.6 million for the 52 weeks to March 28 compared to GBP79.6 million reported for the same period a year earlier, despite revenue climbing by 6.9% to GBP961.0 million from GBP898.9 million. On a like-for-like basis, revenue grew by 5.7%.Hurting pretax profit in the recent financial year, Pets At Home recorded GBP22.5 million in costs associated with the purchase of joint venture veterinary practices, with no such expenses reported the year before.Royal Mail, meanwhile, rose 6.3% despite unveiling plans for a dividend cut. The postal services provider said revenue for the 53 weeks to March was up to GBP10.58 billion from GBP10.17 billion in the 52-week period the year before.Pretax profit rose to GBP241 million from GBP212 million, while adjusted operating profit before transformation costs fell 34% to GBP376 million. Royal Mail recorded GBP133 million of transformation expenses during the year. Royal Mail said it will pay out a full-year dividend of 25.0p, up 4% from 24.0p the year before.However, the firm then plans to rebase its payout policy. For the 2020 financial year, Royal Mail said the plan is for a full-year dividend "underpin" of 15.0p, which may then be supplemented by additional payouts in years with "substantial excess cashflow"."This news had been expected in the post for some time and the company is being applauded for biting the bullet. Now it needs to get on with delivery of its refreshed strategy," AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould commented on the dividend rebase news.Babcock slipped 8.6% after the defence firm reported a decline in annual profit. For the year ended March, pretax profit narrowed 30% to GBP235.2 million from GBP337.7 million the year prior after revenue fell 4.1% to GBP4.47 billion from GBP4.66 billion the year before.Profit was also dented by administration costs and GBP160.8 million in one-off charges related to impairments of the oil & gas unit, restructuring costs and pension charges. Acacia Mining slid 4.5% on a discounted takeover offer from majority shareholder Barrick Gold. Barrick is offering 0.153 of a new Barrick share per Acacia share, which it said values Acacia at USD787 million, equivalent to around GBP620 million. At Tuesday's closing price of 159.50 pence, Acacia currently had a market capitalisation of GBP654.1 million.Acacia is considering the offer, it said, as Barrick continues to make "significant progress" in coming to terms with the government of Tanzania over Acacia's problems in the country.Budget airline Ryanair declined 3.0% after HSBC cut the carrier to Reduce from Hold.
(Alliance News) - A lightning strike on a transmission circuit followed by "almost simultaneous unexpected power losses" at two plants caused the blackouts on August 9, an interim report