Updates from Admiral Group, National Grid and Bovis

Embattled supermarket players see share price gains while Bovis predicts strong 2014 numbers

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Only a 12-point rise for the FTSE 100 on Thursday. The Big Board ended at 6,551.1 with Randgold Resources taking the biggest lift, up 8.21% to 4074p. Experian surged 6.33% to 999.50p helped by a rise in loan applications while there were strong 6% gains for both Morrisons and Sainsbury's, up to 172.50p and 262.20p respectively.

Two insurers took the biggest knocks: RSA Insurance Group fell almost 5% to 460.10p while Admiral fell 2.85% to 1259p. Meanwhile the US Dow Jones again pushed ahead, up 70 points to 17,554.4; an all-time high.

First off, then, Admiral. For the last three months - 1 July to 6 Nov - the insurer saw car customers increase 5% to 3.18 million (Q3 2013: 3.03 million). However UK car insurance turnover was cut 5% to £419 million (Q3 2013: £440 million).

Prices in the UK car insurance market appear to be stabilising after a period of deflation says Admiral. Due to positive claims development on back years, expectations for UK car insurance business in 2014 remains on track.

"However, as we have said before," says the insurance operator, "we anticipate that future earnings will be impacted by the decline in premiums experienced across the market in recent years coupled with a return to higher claims inflation."

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Next National Grid. Overall performance in the first six months is in line with Group expectations for the full year. Adjusted operating profit comes in 2% higher at £1,611m while adjusted earnings per share are 16% higher at 23.4p due to lower financing costs.

In the UK it claims solid delivery of operational performance and capital programme efficiencies while National Grid claims robust US growth also - on track to deliver a year of strong overall returns and dividend growth.

"In the US," says boss Steve Holliday, "the outlook for additional asset growth is increasingly positive and we are taking further action to drive operating cost efficiencies, file for incremental allowances where possible and prepare for future regulatory filings in Massachusetts and New York."

Lastly, an update from Bovis. The UK housebuilder says it's on course to deliver a strong 2014 result with an increase in volumes expected of circa 30% over 2013. Average sales price for 2014 legal completions are expected to come in 10% higher than in 2013.

The operating margin for 2014 is expected to be around 17% (2013: 14.9%). Bovis says it's well placed to deliver its targeted volume for 2014 and is building a substantial order book for 2015. Whilst there has been build cost pressures in labour costs, the sales price gains are expected to offset higher build costs.

"We are confident of our future prospects," says chief exec David Ritchie, "and ability to deliver improved shareholder returns through higher return on capital employed and increasing dividends."

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