(Sharecast News) - London equity markets rose at the open on Thursday, with sentiment buoyed by a surprise jump in Chinese exports, but gains were capped by strength in the pound and a host of stocks going ex-dividend.
At 0840 BST, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2% at 7,214.45, while the pound was 0.3% firmer against the dollar at 1.2176 and 0.2% higher versus the euro at 1.0859.
Investors were mulling over the latest trade data from China, which showed 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.
CMC Markets analyst David Madden said: "The softer yuan is helping exports, but the drop in imports highlights the falling domestic demand."
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.
On home turf, the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that UK house prices fell more than expected 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 was the standout gainer on the top-flight index as it reported a rise in annual profit and assets under administration following a "particularly strong" second half, and apologised to clients who have been hit by the recent Woodford fund issues.
In the year to the end of June, pre-tax profit increased 5% to ï¿½305.8m, with revenue up 7% to ï¿½480.5m and assets under management 8% higher at ï¿½99.3bn. 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.
On the downside, insurer Hastings Group slumped as it said interim adjusted operating profit fell to ï¿½59.7m from ï¿½105.1m in the same period a year ago, impacted by the recent Ogden rate change.
TI Fluid Systems was also 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. Greencoat UK Wind, 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) 7,214.45 0.22%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,061.48 0.64%
techMARK (TASX) 3,820.64 0.27%
FTSE 100 - Risers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,898.50p 3.57%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 751.80p 2.99%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,054.00p 2.70%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 2,196.00p 1.90%
BHP Group (BHP) 1,792.20p 1.83%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 840.00p 1.82%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 1,679.00p 1.79%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,823.60p 1.77%
Evraz (EVR) 609.88p 1.65%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,177.00p 1.64%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
BT Group (BT.A) 173.98p -5.65%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 49.04p -2.39%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 301.20p -1.86%
Barclays (BARC) 144.90p -1.79%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 4,121.00p -1.76%
Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 257.40p -1.23%
Diageo (DGE) 3,340.50p -1.14%
Fresnillo (FRES) 674.18p -0.97%
Unilever (ULVR) 4,831.00p -0.66%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,814.00p -0.57%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 9.64p 4.27%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 479.32p 3.44%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 232.80p 2.56%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 477.30p 2.53%
Schroder Asia Pacific Fund (SDP) 444.00p 2.42%
Metro Bank (MTRO) 320.15p 2.42%
Premier Oil (PMO) 70.50p 2.38%
Card Factory (CARD) 164.70p 2.36%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,353.00p 2.34%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 508.00p 2.34%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hastings Group Holdings (HSTG) 176.30p -7.70%
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 183.80p -6.61%
Greene King (GNK) 576.80p -3.45%
Bellway (BWY) 2,840.00p -1.46%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 343.70p -1.18%
AJ Bell (AJB) 385.84p -0.94%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 212.00p -0.93%
Greencoat UK Wind (UKW) 136.60p -0.87%
Man Group (EMG) 153.75p -0.81%
Baillie Gifford Japan Trust (BGFD) 802.03p -0.74%
WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The United States has removed nearly 2.7 million barrels of Iranian oil from global markets as a result of Washington's decision to reimpose sanctions on of U.S.