UK stocks had a mixed morning on the last full trading day before Christmas as investors focused on Brexit and US stimulus talks, with little significant company news to steer markets.

The UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 0.24% to 6,437 just before midday with markets on edge as outgoing US president Donald Trump demanded changes to a crucial US stimulus package and the clock continued to run down on last-ditch Brexit talks.

But the more domestically focused FTSE 250 index fared better, gaining 0.46% to 20,042.32, as optimism slowly grew that a Brexit deal could be reached.

CAIRN ENERGY SOARS ON DAMAGES DEAL

In corporate news, oil company Cairn Energy (CNE) jumped 20.8% to 200.4p after it won a long-running international arbitration case against the Indian government and was awarded $1.2 billion in damages plus interest and costs.

Cairn had been fighting against a large Indian capital gains tax bill since 2015.

Pub owner Marstons (MARS) advanced 7.69% to 74.2p as it agreed to operate Brain's portfolio of 156 pubs in Wales, for an undisclosed sum, on a combination of leased and management contract arrangements.

Brains, a family business established in Cardiff in 1882, had been under financial pressure due to the pandemic. Its 1,300 staff would transfer to Marstons.

Commercial property company British Land (BLND) climbed 0.8% to 487.5p having agreed to sell its 75% stake in a portfolio of three buildings in London's West End to Allianz Real Estate for £401 million.

Software group Sage (SGE) shed 0.27% to 590p following news that it had agreed to sell its businesses in Asia and Australia to The Access Group for around £95 million.

Sage had told the market in November that it was holding the businesses for sale.

Property investor CLS Holdings (CLI) rose 0.7% to 212.47p, having agreed to acquire an office building in Essen, Germany for €38.2 million.

Infrastructure investment company International Public Partnerships (INPP) dipped 0.28% to 164.34p after it pledged additional investments into the Northern Diabolo rail link in Belgium.

SMALL CAP WRAP

Cell-based therapies group MaxCyte (MXCT:AIM) jumped 7.46% to 490p on guiding for annual financial results at its core life sciences business ahead of market expectations.

Pharmaceutical services group Open Orphan (ORPH:AIM) added 3.25% to 23.85p after 63%-owned drug development company PrEP Biopharm completed a toxicology study for a novel pan-viral prophylactic asset.

The animal model study provided safety data needed to move into longer duration dosing in clinical studies to validate efficacy against respiratory viruses, including Covid-19, influenza and the common cold.

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

Issue Date: 23 Dec 2020