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Russia tensions keep FTSE on an even keel

The FTSE 100 was little changed as tension between the West and Russia over Ukraine kept investors on edge, despite strong results from Prudential.

A convoy of 280 trucks that Russia said carried humanitarian aid for Ukraine set off today, amid Western warnings to Moscow against using help as a pretext for invasion.

The FTSE 100 Index was just 0.4 points lower at 6632.4, having rallied by one per cent on Monday amid a welcome respite in recent geopolitical tensions.

Prudential was the second biggest riser in the top flight after another strong set of results as a result of strong demand in Asia and a resilient performance in the UK, where half-year profits rose 10 per cent.Overall, group profits lifted 17 per cent to £1.5 billion in the half-year and triggered a rise of two per cent in Pru shares — up 29.5p to 1368.5p.

Tensions in Ukraine and Iraq meant travel-based stocks were mixed, with easyJet unchanged at 1258p, British Airways owner International Airlines Group up 0.8p to 332p while TUI Travel was down 0.2p to 360.3p.

The pound was flat against the US dollar, at 1.68, as attention turned to today's quarterly inflation report from the Bank of England, when economists will be looking for signs that interest rates may rise before the end of the year. Sterling was marginally up against the euro, at 1.26.

Ladbrokes said it achieved all its planned operational improvements in time for the World Cup.

The under-pressure bookmaker took bets worth £115.3m during the tournament, a rise of 22.4 per cent on four years ago, but half-year profits slumped by nearly half to £27.7m due to poor results and restructuring costs.

Shares slipped 0.6p to 129.9p, despite broker optimism that the company has finally turned the corner under chief executive Richard Glynn.

Investors were more positive about the recovery story at Serco after new chief executive Rupert Soames said he expected the group's financial performance to be much better in the second half of the year. This was after the scandal-hit outsourcing group slumped to a first-half loss of £7.3m. The stock lifted 1.6p to 330.5p.

Online takeaway food service Just Eat, which joined the stock market in April, led the FTSE 250 Index with a rise of 9% — up 20.5p to 240p — after it reported a sharp jump in half-year profits.

The firm, which now connects 6.9 million users to 40,000 takeaways in 13 countries, saw underlying earnings jump to £15.9 million from £2.3 million in the six months to June 30.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Sports Direct International up 20.5p at 682.5p, Prudential up 29.5p at 1368.5p, Associated British Foods up 54p at 2769p and Smith & Nephew up 14p at 1023p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Hargreaves Lansdown down 31p at 1050p, Mondi down 16p at 1009p, Petrofac down 17p at 1092p and Johnson Matthey down 40p at 2960p.

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