London’s FTSE 100 got off to a slow start in early trade on Wednesday as a worsening Covid-19 pandemic dragged on optimism of a swift economic recovery.

The benchmark index slipped 0.2% lower to 6,257.37 in early deals, tracking declines in Europe with global coronavirus infections surging past 15 million, while losses for engineering firm Melrose Industries (MRO) added extra weight to the weak opening.

Healthcare, industrials and consumer staples stocks were among the biggest drags on the index.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 was more robust, making 0.16% gains to move up to 17,530.26.

‘EXTRAORDINARY’ DISRUPTION

Turnaround specialist Melrose tumbled nearly 17% to 100.1p, and to the bottom of the FTSE 100, as it signalled it could cut jobs to rein in costs to combat a coronavirus-led downturn that saw first-half revenue slump 27% amid ‘extraordinary’ disruption.

Melrose said it was loss-making in the second quarter, but rebounded to be breakeven at the adjusted operating profit level during June.

Going the other way was home improvement retailer Kingfisher (KGF), which jumped more than 10% as it forecast first-half underlying profit ahead of last year on strong second-quarter trading and cost reductions.

Shares in the B&Q DIY chain owner rallied to 248.9p.

IT equipment and software supplier Computacenter (CCC) leapt nearly 9% to £18.885, having reported a ‘substantial’ rise in annual profit, as companies shifted to remote working in the pandemic.

OUTPUT ESTIMATES CUT

Chile-focused copper play Antofagasta (ANTO) added 1.5% to £10.52 even as its production dropped in the second quarter.

Antofagasta said it expected to meet the lower end of its annual output guidance.

Fellow miner Fresnillo (FRES) gained close on 7% to £11.415 despite also cutting its annual production guidance.

Bus and train operator Stagecoach (SGC) surged more than 10% to 55.83p, despite swinging to a full-year loss and scrapping its final dividend, as planned.

Stagecoach said it was continuing to mull funding options, amid a cloudy outlook for the public transport sector.

Private healthcare services group Mediclinic International (MDC) jumped almost 9% to 276p having experienced a continued improvement in its operating performance during June, as lockdown measures were eased.

COST OF PUB CLOSURES

Drinks maker Britvic (BVIC) was flat at 797.5p after its revenue tanked 16% in the third quarter, as lockdowns crimped demand from pubs and restaurants.

Fellow drinks group Nichols (NICL:AIM) fell 1.6% to £11.6625 as it posted a 78% drop in first-half profit, but more than doubled its interim dividend, citing a resilient cash performance.

Logistics firm Wincanton (WIN) rallied 10% to 188.7p after telling investors that full-year underlying pre-tax profit would be ‘significantly ahead’ of current market forecasts, and not less than £30 million.

The combination of our strong new business performance, early cost intervention measures and the recovering economy were behind the brighter steer.

Infection prevention product manufacturer Tristel (TSTL:AIM) dropped 11% to 415p, even after announcing that it expected to beat market expectations with a 21% jump in annual adjusted profit.

Tristel said the Covid-19 pandemic had triggered a surge in demand for hospital disinfection products, though the demand outlook remained uncertain, including for medical device cleaning.

Developer and regeneration specialist St. Modwen Properties (SMP) shed 2.3% to 346.37p having swung to a first-half loss and cut its dividend, owing partly to a negative revaluation of sites in Wales.

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Issue Date: 22 Jul 2020