UK stocks opened substantially lower on Tuesday, with the FTSE 100 off 1.75% at 5,710.95 early on after oil plays were hit by the crude oil price slump, with COVID-19 lockdowns sapping demand for energy in an already-oversupplied market.

Oil futures fell heavily on Tuesday after short-run contracts of West Texas Intermediate yesterday fell in to negative territory for the first time ever, meaning producers were paying customers to take oil away.

WTI is today down more than 18%, while Brent crude, the benchmark used in the UK, fell 16% to $21.50 a barrel.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) fell 5.5% to £12.71 and BP (BP.) declined 5.4% to 286.1p while Tullow Oil (TLW) tanked 9.1% to 16p. Elsewhere in the commodities space, mining giant BHP (BHP) softened 4.9% to £12.47 as it warned the COVID-19 crisis would crimp steel production volumes this year.

LSE STICKS TO DIVI PLAN

Shares in the London Stock Exchange (LSE) rose 3.2% to £77.84 after the bourse operator reported a first quarter income increase, driven by increased equity trading in capital markets and higher clearing activity across listed and over-the-counter products.

Led by chief executive David Schwimmer, the London Stock Exchange also delighted investors by maintaining plans to pay its final dividend for the 2019 financial year.

Associated British Foods (ABF) cheapened 3.1% to £19.25 after the foods-to-fashion conglomerate scrapped its interim dividend in a bid to conserve cash as first half profit fell sharply after a £284m inventory write-down at Primark.

The company also explained that the timing of the reopening of Primark stores remains uncertain and the process of reopening, once it begins, is likely to be complex, meaning it is too early to provide guidance for the rest of the financial year.

SECOND HALF HOPES

Health and environmental technology group Halma (HLMA) was marked up 1.7% to £21.26 as it maintained pre-tax profit guidance for the year to March 2020, reiterating a range of £265m to £270m.

However, the company also warned results for 2021 would likely have a ‘significant’ second half weighting owing to the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ) descended 44p to £26.64 despite confirming that it was an eligible issuer under a UK government finance facility designed to assist businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

Wealth manager Quilter (QLT) reversed 3.3% to 111.6p as assets under management fell 8% in the first quarter as net inflows were offset by a negative market performance. Quilter also dropped its 2020 margin guidance in the wake of COVID-19, although it still intends to pay a final dividend for 2019 and continue with a share buyback.

Michelmersh Brick (MBH:AIM) rallied 7.4% to 102p as the specialist brick maker began to recommence production across its manufacturing plants.

Document management play Restore (RST:AIM) fell 4.5% to 372.5p as it scrapped its 2019 final dividend and furloughed 40-50% of its workforce.

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Issue Date: 21 Apr 2020