Industrial and financial stocks lifted the FTSE 100 in early trading after a wild day for markets on Wednesday, while positive earnings upgrades continue to filter through.

Bitcoin’s crash down to $30,000 before recovering to almost $40,000 caught the eye of even the most dismissive investor as a sell-off in cryptocurrencies and high-growth stocks continue to leave investors split between reopening optimism and inflation worries.

Overnight, major US markets again struggled with energy stocks in the S&P 500 falling 2.5%, dampening their rally of more than 30% since January, The FANG Index - a measure of large technology names that led the market higher last year - rose 0.7%. It remains up just 3.5% since the start of the year.

The S&P 500 is up 84% from its March 2020 lows and has risen 9.9% this year.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 rallied 0.35% to 6,974.79 at 9am, responding to yesterday’s 1.2% plunge that saw the blue-chips fall for a third day straight.

Mid-caps also posted positive numbers, the FTSE 250 adding 0.3% to 22,293.35.

Among the major stock movers, shares in defence technology company Qinetiq (QQ.) jumped after a positive earnings update while home improvement retailer Kingfisher (KGF) rose after it raised its first-half profit outlook.

Experian (EXPN) was also firm, topping the FTSE 100 leaderboard a day after its upbeat quarterly revenue forecast.

NATWEST UPGRADED

Banks were soggy on Thursday although Natwest (NWG) went against the grain, adding 0.25% to 198.45p, as RBC upgraded the stock to ‘outperform’.

Budget airline EasyJet (EZJ) said it is readying 90% of its plane fleet as it bets on a pick-up in demand from June despite the ongoing uncertainty around travel, but its stock fell 2% to 961.60p as it reported wider first-half losses.

Half-year pre-tax losses jumped more than 80% to £645 million year-on-year as revenue slumped 89.9% to £240 million.

Home improvement retailer Kingfisher upgraded its outlook on first-half and annual profit after reporting a jump in sales in the first quarter of the year as strong demand continued.

The company now expected mid-to-high teens group like-for-like sales growth in the first-half versus low double-digits previously. Adjusted pre-tax profit is now anticipated in the range of £580 million to 600 million.

Kingfisher shares rose 0.4% to 377.7p.

DIVIDEND STOCKS TO WATCH

National Grid (NG.) rose 0.9% to 938.8p after reporting underlying pre-tax profit of £2.4 billion for the year ended 31 March 2021. That was down 3% when compared with the year before, due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions over the past 12 months.

The all-important dividend was increased 1% to 49.16p.

Royal Mail (RMG) stock fell nearly 3% to 510p despite announcing a 10p one-off dividend on the back of a 116% profits jump for the year to 31 March 2021.

Asset manager Liontrust (LIO) jumped 3.5% to £15.88 after saying that it expected revenues to be ahead and adjusted profit pre-tax profit to be ‘significantly’ ahead of market expectations amid strong than expected performance fees.

RAIL SHAKE-UP

Transport companies were knocked back after plans for the biggest UK rail shake-up in years were announced. Trainline (TRN) saw its shares plunge more than 30% to 297p after plans for a new centralised, government-run organisation that would include ticket buying.

Bus and rail operator FirstGroup (FGP) saw its stock slip 0.8% to 81.96p.

Components and solutions provider Essentra (ESNT) said positive momentum seen in the first quarter of the year had continued. The share price rose 0.5% to 311.5p.

Watches of Switzerland (WOSG) slipped more than 2% to 751.9p despite reporting an 11.7% increase in revenue to £905.1 million for the 53 weeks to 2 May 2021.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 20 May 2021