UK stocks edged higher on Friday, shrugging off the brutal sell-off in US tech stocks on Thursday night, with the FTSE 100 up 0.2% to 5,861.13 early on.

This was despite sentiment towards the housebuilding sector souring on news of a competition regulator probe into the selling of leasehold homes.

Taylor Wimpey (TW.), Barratt Developments (BDEV), Persimmon (PSN) and Countryside Properties (CSP) are all subject to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) probe into their leasehold practices.

The regulator said it has ‘uncovered troubling evidence’ of potentially unfair terms concerning ground rents in leasehold contracts and potential mis-selling.

Rival housebuilder Berkeley (BKG) improved 0.7% to £46.79 after reporting ‘resilient’ trading for the four months to August, underpinning existing guidance of £500 million of pre-tax profit for the full year, while reiterating plans to return £280 million to shareholders, although the outlook statement was cautious outlook.

‘We remain very mindful of the current volatility and the risks this presents to the UK and global economies as they come to terms with the longer term impact of Covid-19, including once current Government support tapers and in the event of a severe second wave of the virus,’ said Berkeley, also conscious of ‘the risks around the UK’s departure from the European Union at the end of 2020’.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair (RYA) improved 2.7% to €11.98 on confirmation it has raised €400 million through a placing priced at €11.35, with the funds helping to boost the budget airline’s liquidity during the Covid-19 crisis.

Advertising company WPP (WPP) edged up 0.5% to 630.1p, having acquired French customer experience consultancy Velvet Consulting, whose clients include Schneider Electric and L’Oreal, for an undisclosed sum.

British Gas owner Centrica (CNA) gained 0.6% to 46.7p as it agreed to acquire the energy supply customers of Robin Hood Energy for an undisclosed sum.

Engineering services firm Renew (RNWH:AIM) rose 8.2% to 459.5p on news it now expects results for the year to September 2020 to be ‘materially ahead’ of current market expectations.

Management upgraded annual adjusted operating profit guidance to a £39 million-to-£40 million range, while also guiding towards a net cash position, highlighting the resilience of Renew’s engineering activities in the rail, infrastructure and environmental markets as well as effective pandemic mitigation measures.

Paris-based diagnostics group Novacyt (NCYT:AIM) gained 1.7% to 305p as it released an additional CE-Mark approved test for Covid-19.

Professional business services group Christie (CTG:AIM) sparked up 5.1% to 72.5p on strong full year results for 2019 and the news the group anticipates a return to profitable UK trading in 2021.

Christie also expects to resume paying dividends next year, so long as the company is trading in line with management’s expectations.

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Issue Date: 04 Sep 2020