Major UK stocks ended the day in the green, lifted for a second day by companies that should benefit from a reopening of the economy. The rally comes after the UK Prime Minister Johnson sounded cautiously optimistic on Monday, with hopes that lockdown restrictions will start to take effect from 8 March and could come to a complete end by June.
Travel and leisure stocks jumped nearly 2.5% in Tuesday deals, gaining for a second straight day, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his 60-page roadmap out of lockdown for England. Aerospace was also much firmer, up more than 2% and led by aero-engines maker Rolls-Royce (RR.) with its 4%-plus rally to 110p.
UK technology stocks were weak, mirroring the tech sell-off in the US, where the Nasdaq was well into its second day of declines by the UK market close.
BANK ABANDONS PROFIT TARGETS
Full year results from HSBC showed profits beating expectations, even though they were 34% lower than seen in 2019. That was enough to allow the bank to resume dividend payments from August at $0.15 per share, although bad debt provisions have more than trebled.
The banking group also ditched previous profit targets because of the low interest rate environment while confirming that its future focus will be pointed even more towards Asia though there was no decision on the US retail banking business, where speculation had been it would shut down.
The shares fell almost 1% to 428p.
Firm commodity prices saw gains for oil producers BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB), while mining stocks Anglo American (AAL), Rio Tinto (RIO) and BHP (BHP) were also among the biggest boost to the index.
Shares of Holiday Inn-owner InterContinental Hotels (IHG) slipped into the red, down 1.6% at £52.26 despite posting an annual loss, triggered by repeated Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
EasyJet (EZJ) said flight bookings jumped over 300% and holidays bookings surged by more than 600% week on week, after Britain laid out plans for international travel to restart, hinting that borders could reopen from mid-May.
That saw the stock jump 5% to 932.4p despite ongoing uncertainty over exactly how and when international routes can reopen.
Life insurer Aviva (AV.) added 0.35% to 375p, having sold its French unit to Aema Groupe for €3.2 billion as part of a plan to focus on its UK, Ireland and Canada businesses.
The deal covered Aviva's French life, general insurance, and asset management businesses and its 75% stake in UFF5.
Investment manager Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) dipped 2% to 319.7p on news that it would acquire investment platform businesses from insurer Phoenix for £62.5 million, while extending and simplifying their existing relationship.
Standard Life Aberdeen also would sell the Standard Life brand to Phoenix during the course of 2021, but pay Phoenix another £32 million in return for it bearing the cost of transferring staff.
Mike Ashley’s Frasers (FRAS), formerly Sport Direct, firmed 0.7% to 463.4p despite warning of a non-cash write-down of more than £100 million.
The sportswear and equipment retailer pinned the write-down on the impact of the current lockdown and shift in consumer behaviour to online shopping.
COMPANY NEWS WRAP
Infrastructure investor Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund (SEQI) shed 1.3% to 106.8p as it launched a £172.9 million share placing to pay down debt and pursue investment opportunities.
New shares in the company were being offered at 105.25p each, a 2.7% discount to their closing price on Monday.
Listed infrastructure investor HICL (HICL) slid 0.2% to 167.8p after it said it remained on track to deliver its dividend target as the impact of pandemic lockdowns had 'largely been mitigated.'
Sub-prime lender Non-Standard Finance (NSF) soared 18% to 4.17p, even after it said that it was planning a 'substantial' equity raising to support growth, avoid covenant breaches and address uncertainties about remaining a going concern.
Non-Standard Finance said it had commenced planning work on the raising with the support of largest shareholder Alchemy, with a view to completing it in the second quarter of 2021.
Transport analytics group Tracsis (TRCS:AIM) fell 2% to 644.4p on guiding for slightly lower first-half earnings, owing to the pandemic hurting sales at its events and traffic-data business.