(Sharecast News) - London equity markets were still in the green by midday, with sentiment buoyed by a surprise jump in Chinese exports, but the FTSE 100 underperformed its European peers as a host of stocks went ex-dividend.
The top-flight index was up 0.2% at 7,214.06, while the pound was 0.1% firmer against the dollar and the euro at 1.2154 and 1.0853, respectively.
Investors were mulling over the latest trade data from China, which showed that exports rose 3.3% in July from a year earlier despite the Sino-US trade war, beating expectations of a 2% drop and marking the biggest increase since March. Meanwhile, imports fell 5.6%, but this was still better than the 8.3% decline expected and an improvement on June's 7.3% drop.
Overnight, the People's Bank of China set its daily reference rate for the yuan at 7.0039 per dollar, which was the weakest level for the currency since April 2008. Economists had been expecting a level of 7.0205 per dollar.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said there remains little prospect of a swift resolution to the current impasse between the US and China.
"This means that for this rebound to gain further momentum we would need to see evidence of a softening of the rhetoric around trade, and a willingness on the part of both parties to dial back their current positions."
On home turf, the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that the UK housing market softened last month, with consumers increasingly cautious due to Brexit.
The RICS house balance declined to -9 in July from -1 in June, versus expectations for an unchanged reading.
Capital Economics said: "The latest RICS survey showed a housing market struggling to gather any upward momentum. With Brexit uncertainty poised to intensify in the coming months, we expect house prices and transactions to see little or no growth before 2020."
In equity markets, Hargreaves Lansdown surged as it reported a rise in annual profit and assets under administration following a "particularly strong" second half, and apologised to clients who were hit by the recent Woodford fund issues.
In the year to the end of June, pre-tax profit increased 5% to £305.8m, with revenue up 7% to £480.5m and assets under management 8% higher at £99.3bn. The company had a record 1.22 million active clients, up by 133,000 during the year and the total dividend was lifted 5% to 42p a share.
NMC Health was also on the rise as the UAE-based healthcare operator issued a statement to reassure investors following the recent slump in its share price, insisting that it was trading in line with management expectations and backing its full-year guidance.
FTSE 250 lender Funding Circle was higher as it said first-half losses widened but reiterated its guidance for the full year.
On the downside, insurer Hastings Group slumped as it said interim adjusted operating profit fell to £59.7m from £105.1m in the same period a year ago, impacted by the recent Ogden rate change.
TI Fluid Systems was on the back foot as it reported a drop in interim profit and revenue and said global light vehicle production volumes remain "challenging".
Bellway was weaker after the housebuilder said full-year pre-tax profit was expected to be in line with current market expectations as it built a record number of new homes, but cautioned that the operating margin was set to moderate further.
Aviva was a touch lower after the insurer said it was reviewing the future of its Asia business, as it posted a 1% increase in first-half operating profit.
Ex-dividend stocks weighed, with AstraZeneca, BP, BT, Barclays, Diageo, Direct Line, Fresnillo and GlaxoSmithKline all in the frame. Greene King, Hiscox, IMI, Informa, Jupiter Fund Management, Lancashire Holdings, Lloyds, Man Group, PZ Cussons, Rentokil Initial, Rio Tinto, Spirent Communications, St Modwen Properties, Standard Chartered, Unilever and Vesuvius also went ex-div.
FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,214.06 0.21%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,056.29 0.61%
techMARK (TASX) 3,830.86 0.54%
FTSE 100 - Risers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,999.00p 9.06%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 761.20p 4.27%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,084.00p 4.20%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 329.80p 2.97%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,191.50p 2.89%
Halma (HLMA) 1,961.00p 2.64%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,438.00p 2.61%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 150.98p 2.57%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 1,689.80p 2.45%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 844.40p 2.35%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
BT Group (BT.A) 174.40p -5.42%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,724.00p -3.75%
Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 251.30p -3.57%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 299.40p -2.44%
Barclays (BARC) 144.32p -2.18%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 49.16p -2.15%
Centrica (CNA) 67.08p -1.90%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 4,118.50p -1.82%
Hiscox Limited (DI) (HSX) 1,558.00p -1.77%
Diageo (DGE) 3,327.00p -1.54%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Funding Circle Holdings (FCH) 105.20p 6.26%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 492.40p 6.26%
Metro Bank (MTRO) 329.40p 5.37%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 156.50p 4.61%
Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 2,154.00p 4.16%
IP Group (IPO) 61.40p 3.72%
Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) 41.45p 3.37%
Sanne Group (SNN) 553.00p 3.17%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 9.52p 2.97%
Schroder Asia Pacific Fund (SDP) 446.31p 2.96%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 178.58p -9.26%
Hastings Group Holdings (HSTG) 176.80p -7.44%
Greene King (GNK) 567.20p -5.06%
Bellway (BWY) 2,797.00p -2.95%
Amigo Holdings (AMGO) 140.00p -2.78%
Savills (SVS) 923.50p -2.53%
Capita (CPI) 135.40p -1.88%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 341.30p -1.87%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 210.10p -1.82%
Tritax Big Box Reit (BBOX) 144.30p -1.70%
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