The FTSE 100 edged somewhat higher on Wednesday morning as investors weighed vaccine optimism with lockdown fallout fears, while a number of companies released a mixed bag of updates.
Helping the index was a higher oil price, with Brent Crude above $57 per barrel after a fall in US stockpiles, another output cut from Saudi Arabia, and economic optimism out of China, leading BP (BP.) 1.97% higher to 311p and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) up 1.31% to £14.52.
But this was offset by losses in banking stocks and a big slide in the shares of food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway.com (JET).
By 9am the UK’s benchmark index was 0.1% higher to 6,761.17. The midcap FTSE 250 index was down 0.17% to 20,677.57.
Just Eat fell 4.43% to £86.68 despite expecting annual revenue growth of more than 50% after reporting a 57% rise in order growth in the fourth quarter, led by a pandemic-fueled surge in UK orders.
Delivery orders in the UK surged 387% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.
However the company said its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margin is expected to be 10% for the full year, citing ‘significant’ investment and a preference for market-share gains over earnings.
Housebuilder Persimmon (PSN) slipped 2.1% to £27.26 on announcing that its annual revenue had fallen 8.8%, though the drop was buffered by a recovery in trading conditions during the second half.
Persimmon's home completions fell 14% to 13,575, down from 15,855, but included 8,675 completions in the second half. Dividends for the full year would more than halve to 110p per share, down from 235p in 2019.
Fast fashion retailer ASOS (ASC:AIM) gained 3.56% to £53.76 as it lifted guidance on annual profit after performance in the four months through 31 December topped its expectations amid stronger-than-anticipated demand.
The company now expects pre-tax profit to be at the top end of range of current market expectations of £115 million to £170 million. Sales were up 23% in the period, with the active customer base increasing 1.1 million to 24.5 million.
Recruitment company PageGroup (PAGE) shed 1.97% to 449p on announcing that its fourth-quarter gross profit had fallen by almost a fifth, as the pandemic continues to pressure employment markets.
But on a brighter note PageGroup said it had seen a monthly sequential improvement through the fourth quarter, with gross profit in December down 18.2%.
Gambling company William Hill (WMH), which has agreed to be acquired by Caesers Entertainment, edged 0.2% higher to 269.8p after it reported a 9% rise in fourth-quarter revenue.
The year-on-year increase was driven by favourable sporting results, plus enhanced products and geographical expansion, the company said.
Self-storage group Big Yellow (BYG) gained 0.7% to £10.87 as it reported a rise in revenue in the third quarter of the year on higher occupancy, driven largely by demand from its domestic customer base.
Fund management group Liontrust Asset Management (LIO) rose 1.4% to £12.68 after it revealed a 43% rise in quarterly assets under management, buoyed by net inflows of £792 million.
Landscaping product supplier Marshalls (MSLH) firmed 0.8% to 721.4p following news that it would reinstate its dividend even as its annual revenue fell 13%, though on an improving trend.
Music rights investor Hipgnosis Songs Fund (SONG) added 0.3% to 119.9p after it acquired a song catalogue from Latin pop start Shakira, for an undisclosed sum.
Defence contractor TP (TPG) jumped 9.8% to 6.7p on announcing that it was considering a sale of its maritime engineering business after it received expressions of interest from potential buyers.