London's blue-chip index ended the session 0.19% higher on Thursday, breaking a three-day losing streak. "With U.S. markets shut for Thanksgiving, European stock indices drift higher amid low volume trading," IG analyst Axel Rudolph wrote in a market comment. The FTSE 100's rise was helped by encouraging surveys pointing to a pick up in business activity, Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said. "U.K. services [Purchasing Managers Index] unexpectedly moved back into growth territory, reinforcing the view that the economy may once again defy expectations and avoid recession," Erlam wrote.

COMPANIES NEWS:

Intertek Says It Is on Track to Deliver Targets After Revenue Rise

Intertek Group said it is on track to deliver its targets after booking like-for-like revenue growth on a constant currency basis.

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FirstGroup Swung to Pretax Loss on Higher Costs; Sees Year in Line With Views

FirstGroup said it swung to a pretax loss for the first half of its fiscal year after booking higher costs, and that its outlook for the year was in line with the board's expectations.

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Paypoint Pretax Profit Falls on Higher Cost Despite Double-Digit Revenue Growth

Paypoint has reported a lower pretax profit for the first half of fiscal 2024 despite double-digit revenue growth amid a challenging environment, reflecting higher cost and the expected first-half loss from the Love2shop business acquisition.

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Virgin Money UK Pretax Profit Fell; Starts New Buyback

Virgin Money UK said pretax profit fell on impairments and adjusting items, and started a 150 million pound ($187.4 million) share buyback.

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Mitie Group Backs Guidance After Rise in Pretax Profit

Mitie Group backed its recently raised full-year guidance after booking a pretax profit increase in the first half of fiscal 2024.

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DX (Group) Reports Strong New Business, But Flags Softening Volumes

DX (Group) PLC said it has secured strong levels of new business in the first quarter of its fiscal year, but flagged that some volumes were softening.

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Hornby Pretax Loss Widens on Increased Costs; Revenue Edges Higher

Hornby said its pretax loss widened in the first half of fiscal 2024, despite a slight growth in revenue, partly on higher costs associated with its current business restructure.

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LondonMetric Property Swings to Profit on Portfolio Value Rise

LondonMetric Property said that it swung to a pretax profit in the first half of fiscal 2024 due to a rise on the value of its portfolio, and hiked its dividend.

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Avation's Broker Received Takeover Approach for Company Over Summer

Avation said that its broker was approached over the summer about a potential takeover for the company but talks ended after it was unable to verify the bidder's funding package.

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PZ Cussons's Performance In Line With Expectations Despite Inflation

PZ Cussons said its performance continues to be in line with the board's expectations and consistent with its fiscal 2024 outlook, despite very high levels of inflation.

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Michelmersh Sees Earnings in Line With Views After Resilient Performance

Michelmersh Brick Holdings said it expects earnings to be in line with market views for 2023 after resilient performance in the fourth quarter, with the company continuing to operate at full manufacturing capacity.

MARKET TALK:

Auto Trader Bears Near-Term Risks, Long-Term Structural Concerns

1335 GMT - Auto Trader has both near-term cyclical risks and long-term structural concerns as the auto retail market is in flux, UBS says. The digital automotive marketplace has taken a commendably proactive approach, but it is still vulnerable to a price correction, declining private car ownership and the electric vehicle transition, among other factors, UBS analysts say in a research note. "We believe a [share price fall] is justified given an inferior growth profile and lower earnings visibility, making Auto Trader our least favored stock in the European Online Classifieds [market]," the Swiss bank says. UBS cuts Auto Trader's rating to sell from neutral and lowers the price target to 613 pence from 640 pence. Shares are down 1.6% at 700.6 pence. (joseph.hoppe@wsj.com)

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European Markets Rise After Mixed Asia; Oil Stocks Gain

1228 GMT - European stocks mostly gain after mixed Asia trading, with oil stocks among the biggest risers as crude prices recover some of Wednesday's losses. The Stoxx Europe 600 edges 0.1% higher and the DAX and CAC 40 advance 0.2%, though the FTSE 100 drops 0.1%. Brent crude falls 1% to $81.14 a barrel, having dropped to about $79 Wednesday following news of a delay to this weekend's planned meeting of OPEC and its allies. Australian stocks backtracked 0.6%, but markets in mainland China, Hong Kong and South Korea rose. "European stocks remain bid following a sharp fall in U.S. initial jobless claims and durable-goods orders, but are expected to trade in low volumes due to holidays in Japan and the U.S. until the weekend," IG analysts write. (philip.waller@wsj.com)

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Ithaca Energy Looks Poised to Gain From Robust Pricing Environment

1214 GMT - Ithaca Energy's nine-month update was strong and in line with expectations, Peel Hunt analyst Werner Riding says. "Ithaca remains well placed to benefit from the current robust pricing environment and to invest in future growth, especially in light of recent government approval for the important Rosebank [oil field] development," the analyst says. The oil-and-gas company's year-to-date output of 71,000 oil-equivalent barrels a day was in line with the U.K. brokerage's estimate, driving an Ebitdax--an industry-specific metric stripping exploration costs--of $1.37 billion, below Peel Hunt's estimate of $1.64 billion. Shares are up 5.1% at 161.00 pence. (christian.moess@wsj.com)

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Jet2 Loses Height After Reporting Slower Bookings

1158 GMT - Jet2 shares drop 3.6% after the tour operator and airline group said it was on track to hit full-year pretax profit targets, but reported slower bookings in the last few weeks. While there was evidence of a strong post-pandemic rebound in overseas travel in the company's first-half results, there were also signs that this may be difficult to sustain, AJ Bell says. "Notably, Jet2 has held firm on pricing, but there has to be some risk that the cost of jetting off for a break abroad is moving beyond the means of at least some hard-pressed households," Bell's investment director Russ Mould writes. (philip.waller@wsj.com)

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Cussons's Delisting in Nigeria is Necessary for Future Stability

1157 GMT - PZ Cussons's planned delisting from the Nigeria stock exchange is likely to lead to a hit to earnings, but it needs to execute its plan to mitigate risks in the country if the Nigerian arm is to have a long-term future, AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould says in a note. The company's strategy to mitigate both financial instability in Nigeria and volatile naira currency--a regular problem--could protect its long-term stability, but may include repatriating funds held in naira amid a lack of U.S. dollars in Nigeria, Mould says. Shares are up 1.6% at 140.2 pence. (najat.kantouar@wsj.com)

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FirstGroup's Strong 1H Suggests Little Risk to Dividend, Buyback Program

1146 GMT - FirstGroup's 1H is strong as it managed to eke out significantly higher profits from a smaller revenue base due to vastly improved margins, eToro analyst Adam Vettese says in a note. FirstGroup's balance sheet is in a relatively good state, meaning that--unless the economy takes another downturn--there should be little risk to the company's dividend or its buyback program, he says. Furthermore, passenger numbers are soaring, most likely due to the postpandemic normalization of commuting patterns, Vettese says. "Its shares have taken a knock today, most likely as a result of profit taking by shareholders, but we see some growth potential for the firm going forward," he says. Shares are down 4.4% at 167.30 pence. (anthony.orunagoriainoff@dowjones.com)

 

Contact: London NewsPlus, Dow Jones Newswires;

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 23, 2023 12:32 ET (17:32 GMT)

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