UK blue chip stocks have taken direction from Wall Street and ended the week at a nine-month high as US stocks hit new records, following a weak jobs report which is expected to put pressure on US policymakers to greenlight a stimulus package.
The US economy, which is the world’s largest, added just 245,000 jobs – less than half the 500,000 jobs analysts had been expecting – in November as the country’s economic recovery stalled with coronavirus cases surging.
But investors have seen this positively as it now could spur Congress to act in approving a stimulus package to help the economy.
By close the UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 0.92% to 6,550.23 while in the US the S&P 500 had gained 0.6% to 3,690.26 by 4.30pm UK time.
In company news, Associated British Foods (ABF) climbed 2.48% to £23.60 after it said it expected Primark sales and profit to be higher this year even as it raised its estimate for lost sales owing to temporary store closures during the November lockdown.
Utility giant SSE (SSE) gained 1.87% to £13.86 as it entered into an agreement to sell a 10% stake in the first two phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm to Italian energy giant Eni for an equity consideration of £202.5 million.
Real estate developer Land Securities (LAND) rose 1.9% to 725.6p as it exchanged contracts to sell 1 & 2 New Ludgate to Sun Venture for £552 million.
Pet supplies retailer Pets at Home (PETS) slid 3.97% to 382.4p as it revealed it will take a profit hit of £35 million after it announced it is repaying the £28.9 million of business rates relief received across the business during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company said it was doing this as it is no longer be able to offset Covid-specific costs against relief.
Homebuilder Berkeley (BKG) dipped 1.83% to £47.64 having reported a fall in first-half profit on lower sales of homes owing to the impact of the lockdown earlier this year.
For the six months ended 31 October, pre-tax profit fell 16.6% to £230.8 million year-on-year as revenue fell to £895.9 million from £930.9 million.
SMALL CAP WRAP
Own-label household products manufacturer McBride (MCB) jumped 7.27% to 70.8p after telling the market it will show growth ahead of expectations in the first-half.
Better still, that will mean that pre-tax profit for the full year to 20 June 2021 is now anticipated to be ‘at least 10% ahead of the current market consensus of £25.2 million’, although the company remains mindful of ongoing economic uncertainty.
Estate agency group Hunters Property (HUNT:AIM) soared 19.49% to 69.9p after it confirmed media reports it had received a preliminary approach from The Property Franchise Group about a possible takeover.
Customised electronics maker DiscoverIE (DSCV) jumped 9.83% to 610p as it continued its buy-and-build strategy after acquiring German business Limitor for up to €18 million.
Microcap X-ray screening systems supplier Image Scan (IGE:AIM) leapt 16.74% to 2.51p after it reported a pre-tax profit of £113,000, compared with a loss of £2.4 million year-on-year as sales increased 50% to £3.5 million for the year ended 30 September 2020.