Updates from RBS, Hays and RPS Group

More market optimism yesterday with the FTSE up +0.88% to 6,325 points. Weir Group pulled strongly ahead of the pack, up +7.30%. In contrast, Petrofac slumped -6.26%.

Nearly all markets moved north with the Dow Jones climbing +1.26%, breaching the 14,000 barrier, up more than 175 points; in Europe, the Cac 40 shot +1.92% higher.

First off this morning, FTSE 100 heavyweight RBS - and its fifth annual loss. Pre-tax losses come in at £5.17bn. Though heavy, much of this loss is directly connected to a accounting measure on the cost of its liabilities.

However there are more liabilities also, with a £450m PPI charge and £650m set aside for mis-selling interest rate hedging products. On the positive side, RBS operating profits climbed to £3.46bn in 2012, up from £1.82bn in 2011. The troubled bank also confirms it will forge ahead with a float of its US division, Citizens.

"It is," says Group Chairman Philip Hampton, "much closer now to being in the good financial health that would allow shareholders to receive a dividend and the Government to start to sell its stake. The challenge that remains is to serve customers better."

Next, half-year figures for Hays. The recruiter says net fees dipped to £360.3m from £373.8m in 2011 for the six months up to 31 December. Operating profits from continuing operations are down -4% to £60.3m; basic earnings per share slip -12% to 2.43p.

Hays says the results should be seen in the context of "more fragile and fast-changing" conditions in several key markets. For example, Asia Pacific net fees slipped -11% and UK & Ireland fees also stumbled, down -6%. French net fees were flat.

"We have," says chief exec Alistair Cox, "returned the UK business to profit, continued to invest for growth where markets are good such as in Germany or Canada, and taken rapid action to reduce costs in markets which deteriorated in the half such as Australia or France."

Lastly, natural resources consultancy RPS Group. 2012 revenues climb to £555.9m from £528.7m though profits before tax slip to £40.2m from £40.5m in 2011. Earnings per share slide to 11.94p compared to 13.49p.

RPS claims the balance sheet remains "strong" with year end net bank borrowings at £13.5m (2011: £23.5m) having invested £24.2m in acquisitions during 2012.

RPS hikes the dividend by 15% (the 19th consecutive annual increase). "The Group delivered a record performance in 2012 and remains in a strong position operationally and financially," says chairman Brook Land.