London’s FTSE 100 index hit a new high for the year of 7,242 points in early trading on Friday, leaving the UK market at a higher level than at any of its closing prices year to date.

Just before noon, those gains had eased back a bit, but the blue chip benchmark still traded 0.3% ahead at 7,228.84.

The strong finish to the week followed a positive overnight performance in the US, and in Asia where markets ended Friday on a good note.

Oil prices continued to gain with Brent crude futures almost touching $85 per barrel, causing major headaches for energy-intensive businesses. Sterling also firmed against the dollar to hit $1.3720, adding to the headwinds facing companies which rely on exports.

COMPANY NEWS

International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) ascended 2.9% to 182.3p, with fellow airlines EasyJet (EZJ), Jet2 (JET2:AIM) and Wizz Air (WIZZ) also rising.

This followed clarity from the UK Government on relaxing some of the rules for travellers around testing, with anyone returning to England able to take cheaper lateral flow tests from 24 October. That news could trigger a flurry of last-minute flight bookings for half-term.

Shares in banking group HSBC (HSBA) rose 1.7% to 433.1p in response to analysts at Barclays and Bank of America raising their price targets on the stock.

In a third quarter production update, mining leviathan Rio Tinto (RIO) reduced its guidance for iron ore shipments, sending shares lower by 1.4% to £50.42.

Shares in pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) drifted 0.4% lower to £87.75 despite confirmation that a late-stage trial for its liver cancer drug had met its primary goal, demonstrating a ‘statistically significant and clinically meaningful’ overall survival benefit.

Education publisher Pearson (PSON) reported a 10% increase in underlying profit for the nine months to September and said it was on target to meet full year expectations. It also said two million people had registered for its new American learning app.

Despite this, the shares plunged 12.2% to 640p as investors didn’t like news of weakness in US community college enrolments, following a surge in Covid cases in the back to school period and because of strengthening in the US jobs market.

Shares in asset manager Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) jumped 3.4% to 247.8p after the group reported an increase in assets under management as positive investment performance offset net outflows.

For the three months to September, assets under management increased by £0.4 billion to £60.7 billion, despite weaker client demand for UK and European equity strategies coupled with net redemptions from mutual funds which resulted in net outflows of £569 million.

Property firm Land Securities (LAND) edged 0.5% higher to 701.2p after saying it had collected 85% of rent in respect of the September 2021 quarter, up from 81% at the same stage for the June quarter.

Buyers were out in force for international private healthcare group Mediclinic (MDC) after the company flagged a ‘material recovery’ in profit margins.

First half revenues also moved ahead of pre-pandemic levels, the company added, revealing a 12% increase in revenues, news that saw the share price jump 8.9% to 336p.

Shares in The Mercantile Investment Trust (MRC) were marked up 1% to 264p after the small and mid cap-focused fund announced a benchmark-beating first half performance.

Fund managers Guy Anderson and Anthony Lynch insisted they are sticking with their positive outlook too, though they anticipate the pace of economic growth will moderate.

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Issue Date: 15 Oct 2021