UK stocks dropped sharply on Friday as the sell-off in bonds continued to rattle investors, not only wiping out the previous week's gains but wiping out the entire month's gains.

Overnight the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices fell by 2.5% and 3.5% respectively, triggering the sharpest sell-off in Asian markets for nine months with Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropping 4% and China’s SE Composite falling 2%.

The sell-off spilled over into commodities with Brent Crude down 1% to $65 a barrel. Gold fell 0.2% to $1,766 an ounce.

At the close, the FTSE 100 of leading shares was down a thumping 173 points or 2.6% to 6,479, it's lowest close since 29 January and the biggest percentage loss since 21 September last year. Just three stocks were in positive territory by the end of the trading day.

COMPANY NEWS

British Airways owner IAG (IAG) reported a full year pre-tax loss of €7.43 billion from a profit of €2.28 billion a year ago as revenue slumped on 69.4% to €7.81 billion.

The results reflected the serious impact that COVID-19 had on its business, with passenger capacity down 66.5% as governments-imposed lockdowns. Relief that the results weren't worse still saw the shares top the FTSE leader board up 3.8% to 193p.

Property portal Rightmove (RMV) reported a 29% slump in revenue to £205.7 million after the Covid-19 crisis prompted it to offer a discount to customers. Operating profit fell 37% to £135.1 million.

The company reinstated its dividend with a 4.5p per share payment, however the shares were the worst performers in the FTSE, dropping 6.4% to 567p.

Engineering company IMI (IMI) said full year pre-tax profit rose 11% to £227 million even as revenue slipped 3% to £1.83 billion.

Following its decision to reset its dividend cover ratio, the company proposed a final dividend of 15.0 pence, down from 26.2 pence, taking the total dividend for the year to 22.5 pence, a decrease versus last year's 41.1 pence. The shares dipped 1.3% to £13.36.

Investment trust The Law Debenture Corporation (LWDB) reported annual returns that topped its benchmark.

For the year ended 31 December 2020, share price total return for 2020 was 12.9%, outperforming the FTSE Actuaries All-Share Index, its benchmark by 22.7%.

The company reported a pre-tax profit of £4.1 million, down from £131.4 million last year. The annual dividend was increased by 5.8% to 27.5 pence per ordinary share. The shares dropped 3.5% to 700p.

Insurer RSA (RSA) said full year group underwriting profit grew 36% to £550 million and operating profit was 15% higher at £751 million.

Personal Lines which are 56% of net written premiums achieved a combined ratio 86% and Commercial Lines recorded a combined ratio 97%.  The combined ratio measures the underwriting profit as a percentage of premiums written.

The company said the all-cash offer from Tryg was progressing and would complete in the coming months. The shares were unchanged at 675p.

Shares in Fund management company Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) gained 1.8% to 292p after it reported full year underlying pre-tax profit up 10% to £179.0 million as assets under management increased by 37% to £58.7 billion.

Growth was driven by increased performance fee income of £73.6 million compared with £7.9 million last year, prompting the company to propose a special dividend of 3 pence per share on top of the help 17.1 pence per share.

Also on the rise were shares in Pets at Home Group (PETS) which gained 3.3% to 383p after the company increased its full-year outlook after a strong performance in the fourth quarter.

Based on trading year-to-date, the company now anticipates full year underlying pre-tax profit to be approximately £85 million, ahead of January's guidance of at least £77 million which in itself was a 20% upgrade on its previous forecast.

Shares in infection control specialist Byotrol (BYOT:AIM) gained 3.6% to 6.2p after announcing it has developed and externally validated a new test for determining whether its cleaning and sanitising products have long-lasting efficacy against viruses in real-life use.

The day's best performer was David Beckham-backed synthetic cannabis company Cellular Goods (CBX), which initially surged more than 400% to 28p on its first day on the London market.

The company raised £13 million as part of its IPO that it said was 13 times oversubscribed. That gave the company roughly a £25 million market value at launch.

The shares closed at 19p for a gain of 280%, giving the company a market value of just under £100 million.

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Issue Date: 26 Feb 2021