The FTSE 100 closed higher on Thursday as a decline in energy stocks was offset by broad based gains across many sectors, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 hit a record high despite weakness in some travel and leisure shares, such as Stagecoach (SGC) and Wizz Air (WIZZ).

The FTSE 250 finished the session 0.4% higher at 22,247.54, while the benchmark FTSE 100 ended 0.8% higher at 6,942.22, although it remains below last year’s peak and the all-time high above 7,900 from May 2018.

A relatively weak pound continues to support UK equities as Sterling gained against the euro for the third consecutive day. The jump in pound comes as Covid cases appear to be getting under control in much of Europe, the vaccine programme seems to be picking up pace, and UK infections continue to slow.

A firm start on Wall Street gave UK investors added impetus with both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite making gains, the latter’s 0.9% rally a promising sign for sold down tech stocks.

MINING DEMERGER

Anglo American (AAL) was one of the bigger winners on Thursday, up more than 3% to £30.84 after the mining giant said it has demerged its thermal coal operations in South Africa as it seeks to move away from thermal coal and decarbonise its operations.

But online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC:AIM) lost earlier gains to plunge 3.4% to £55.30 despite raising full-year guidance following a jump in first-half profit as sales were boosted by the pandemic-driven surge in online shopping.

Results for the half to 28 February revealed total sales growth of 25% and a 275% surge in adjusted pre-tax profits to £112.9 million.

‘These record results, which include robust growth in sales, customer numbers and profitability, demonstrate the significant progress we have made against all of our strategic priorities and the strength of our execution capability,’ commented CEO Nick Beighton, adding that ‘the swift integration of the Topshop brands and the impressive early customer engagement is also especially pleasing.’

Elsewhere in retail, homewares leader Dunelm (DNLM) was marked up 2.5% to £13.81 as the homewares leader said it expects full-year profit to be ‘modestly ahead’ of the top of the £120 million-to-£125 million consensus range, assuming the majority of its stores reopen as expected on 12 April and there are no further Covid restrictions in the current financial year.

Though Dunelm’s total sales for the third quarter ended 27 March 2021 were down 16.8% at £236.6 million as a result of the shuttering of its store estate, the best-in-class cushions-to-kitchenware seller benefited from surging digital sales.

Chemicals giant Johnson Matthey (JMAT) moved 1.5% higher to £31.45 as the company upgraded its outlook on annual operating performance following a ‘materially stronger’ second half recovery from the pandemic impact and said it is carrying out a strategic review of its Health business.

For the year to March 2021, Johnson Matthey said its underlying operating profit is expected to be ‘around the top end’ of the £405 million to £502 million range of expectations.

IN OTHER NEWS

British Land (BLND) reversed earlier softness to add 0.3% to 519.6p on the news it has pre-let nearly 30% of office space at 1 Broadgate to real estate services firm JLL on a 15-year term.

Morgan Sindall (MGNS) was marked up 1.7% to £18.78 after it announced the appointment of Vodafone director Kathy Quashie as a non-executive director, with effect from 1 June 2021.

Used car retailer Motorpoint (MOTR) ended the day flat at 259p on a solid trading update for the year to March 2021 which flagged strong online sales growth through the lockdown, with Motorpoint anticipating pent-up consumer demand ahead of the full reopening of its retail branches later this month.

But rival dealer Lookers (LOOK) jumped nearly 15% to 71.6p on news it expects pre-tax profit for 2021 to be materially ahead of market expectations after first-quarter results topped expectations on increased demand from digital channels.

And specialist lender OSB (OSB) rose 2.5%  to 468.4p after posting a 9% drop in annual earnings and a year-on-year drop in underlying pre-tax profit from £381.1 million to £346.2 million.

 

 

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Issue Date: 08 Apr 2021