UK stocks nudged higher in early trade on Thursday matching tentative gains on European bourses after fresh records on Wall Street and a decent handover from Asia.

The Dow Jones rose 464.28 points overnight, or 1.5%, to notch a new record closing high at 32,297.02, after House Democrats passed Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. Gains for the S&P 500 were more measured while the Nasdaq Composite drifted as the tech bounce drew breath.

US gaming company Roblox closed 54% up on its New York Stock Exchange trading debut, valuing the company at $45.2 billion, as retail investors piled in.

In London, the benchmark FTSE made modest 0.1% gains to 6,732,34 as higher commodity prices boosted mining and energy stocks after the Stateside stimulus bill, while online trading platform IG Group (IGG) jumped on a surge in third-quarter revenue.

Oil heavyweights BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) were also among the biggest boosts as oil prices rose, despite the latter’s 47% fall in 2020 revenue.

Bank HSBC (HSBA) acted as a drag after going ex-dividend, when new investors lose the right to the latest shareholder payout. Its stock fell 4% to 428.35p.

RECORD ROLLS LOSS

Rolls Royce (RR.) shares rose 2% to 115p despite reporting a larger-than-expected loss as it stuck to previous guidance, reiterating that it expects to turn cash flow positive in the second half.

Pre-tax losses amounted to £4 billion last year with negative free cash flow of £4.2 billion reflects an exceptional year on all fronts for the aerospace giant. Underlying revenues of £11.7 billion were down from £15.4 billion last year but ahead of the consensus estimate of £11.03 billion. The company has sufficient liquidity even if there is no recovery this year, according to the CEO.

Supermarket Morrisons (MRW) fell 0.2% to 176.8p after its annual profit halved as a Covid-related jump in sales was more than offset by the huge £260 million of extra costs of the crisis.

Trading platform IG jumped 4.5% to 848p after a surge in third-quarter revenue despite a tough comparative, driven by high levels of trading during the period that saw a so-called retail frenzy in financial markets.

Revenue at 5G mobile tester Spirent Communications (SPT) was up 4% in 2020, boosted by strong demand for both lab and live assurance solutions and our new 5G device testing solutions and services.

Adjusted operating profit increased by 11% to $103.5 million, with adjusted operating margin improving to 19.8% from 18.4% in 2019. The company said it had continued investing in research and development across the portfolio during the period to the tune of $103 million, 20% of revenue.

ELSEWHERE ON THE MARKET

Drug companies GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Vir Biotechnology said they would seek authorisation in the US and other countries for their Covid-19 antibody after late-stage clinical trials showed the drug reduced hospitalisation and risk of death by 85% and was effective against other variants. GSK's share price fell 7 points to £12.56.

The Trainline (TRN) reported a fall in net ticket sales to £783 million, equivalent to 21% of the prior year, as the measures put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus resulted in a significant reduction in passenger volume.

Despite the fall in ticket sales the company's share price rose 2.16% to 490.80p

Real Estate company Derwent London (DLN) swung to annual loss as the value of its property portfolio owing to the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns. For the year ended 31 December 2020, pre-tax loss was £83.0 million compared to a profit of £280.6 million in 2019, while net property and other income rose rose to £183 million from £182.6 million. Its share price fell slightly to £33.

Marshalls (MSLH) has reinstated its dividends after a progressive growth in sales in the second half of 2020. The company has recommended a final dividend of 4.30p as sales in the fourth quarter of 2020 ended ahead of the same period the year prior. The announcement resulted in a share price surge of 6.11% to 740.68p.

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Issue Date: 11 Mar 2021