Despite the UK lurching back into an economically destructive lockdown, London’s FTSE 100 clawed back earlier losses to close 0.61% higher at 6,612.25 points on Tuesday.

The blue chip benchmark’s resilience reflected hopes for a swift vaccine rollout as well as a boost to sentiment from chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £4.6 billion relief package for the UK retail and hospitality sectors.

Shares in Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) rose 6.2% to £13.36 despite a fall in oil prices after producers’ cartel OPEC and its affiliates failed to come to a consensus on production curbs at their meeting yesterday.

NEXT, MORRISONS SEE STRONG FESTIVE SALES

Clothing retailer Next (NXT) jumped 8% to £74.66 as the retail bellwether reported better than expected festive sales for the nine weeks to 24 December, with full price brand sales down 1.1% year-on-year, much better than the central guidance of -8% outlined in its third quarter trading statement in late October.

The company highlighted that with the benefit of better sales in November and December it now expects full-year pre-tax profit of £370 million.

This however includes two non-recurring items (a 53rd week benefit of £12 million and a new additional property provision of £40 million) meaning that total full year profit is forecast to be £342 million, compared to guidance range of £290-400 million given in late October and analyst estimates of £280 million.

Supermarket Morrisons (MRW) cheapened 0.5% to 180.2p despite saying group like-for-like sales excluding fuel have improved by 7.3% so far in its four quarter, driven by sales over Christmas and New Year.

Overall sales rose by 9.3% in the three weeks to 3 January, compared with the same time last year, as shoppers moved early to secure their supplies for the festive period amid restrictions.

The supermarket said like-for-like sales ex-fuel was 7.1% in the third quarter, which has then increased to 7.3% for the nine weeks of its fourth quarter to date.

SOFTCAT HAS INVESTORS PURRING

IT infrastructure provider Softcat (SCT) surged 8.1% to £15.14 as it said that with the seasonally important December trading period now behind it, the firm is ‘significantly ahead of where we expected to be at this stage.’

The firm said trading has continued to be ‘positive’ since its first quarter update on 16 November, with demand from its public sector customers remaining ‘strong’.

Fuel distribution group DCC (DCC) gained 0.8% to £53.86 as it completed the acquisition of United Propane Gas, ‘materially’ expanding its presence in the US liquified petroleum gas (LPG) market.

Balfour Beatty (BBY) rose 0.4% to 272.2p after the construction group said it expected to complete its previously announced initial £50 million buyback programme by the time it releases 2020 full-year results on 10 March 2021.

Paper and packaging company Mondi (MNDI) was marked down 11.5p to £17.40 after agreeing to acquire 90.38% of the outstanding shares in Turkey-listed corrugated packaging player Olmuksan for €66 million.

Iron ore producer Ferrexpo (FXPO) gained 5.4% to 312.2p as it declared a special interim dividend of 13.2 US cents following ‘strong’ operational and financial performance in 2020.

Sustainable biopesticides minnow Eden Research (EDEN:AIM) ripened up 25% to 15.6p after receiving the London Stock Exchange’s Green Economy Mark, which recognises London-listed companies that derive over 50% of total annual revenue from products and services contributing to the global green economy.

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Issue Date: 05 Jan 2021