The FTSE 100 fell 0.69% to 6,868 in early trade on Monday despite optimism as non-essential retailers and pubs open their doors for the first time in months.
Momentum in UK shares had been building ahead of today, with the index getting back to pre-pandemic levels last week. The midcap FTSE 250 index, which last week hit a record high, also fell this morning with a 0.46% drop to 22,148.
Most retailers and leisure stocks were down in early trade, with the FTSE 350 General Retailers index down 0.56% and the FTSE 350 Travel & Leisure index 0.4% lower, having recorded notable gains last week in anticipation of today’s reopening.
According to market commentators, investor optimism appears to be somewhat tempered by concerns over the next month’s local and regional elections, in particular how well the Scottish National Party might do and whether or not they get a mandate from voters for another independence referendum.
The falls in UK stocks this morning mirror those seen in Asia, where China’s Shanghai Composite tumbled throughout the day to close 1.09% lower, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.94% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 0.77%.
In commodities, gold fell 0.19% to $1,740.67 per ounce, while Brent crude oil futures were trading 0.44% lower to $62.67 a barrel.
HAMMERSON IN TALKS TO SELL RETAIL PARKS
In company news, property developer Hammerson (HMSO) dipped 0.3% to 37.25p after it confirmed it is in talks to sell its portfolio of retail parks to rival developer Brookfield.
Hammerson gave the usual disclaimer that there can be ‘no certainty that a transaction would take place or the terms on which any transaction may occur’.
It added, ‘As announced at its full year results, the company continues to make asset disposals in liquid markets to further strengthen the balance sheet, with gross proceeds of £73 million achieved to date in 2021.’
Mining giant BHP (BHP) dropped 1.6% to £21.16 as its joint venture Samarco Mineracao filed for judicial review for bankruptcy protection after failing to agree terms on a debt restructure with creditors.
Samarco, BHP Brasil and Vale – both of which own 50% in Samarco – are expected to continue negotiations in the coming months with the Brazilian authorities to settle the R$155 billion public civil claim commenced by the Federal Prosecutors Office against the trio of companies.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (AZN) edged 0.3% lower to £72.62 as it revealed that high-level results from a phase 3 trial assessing the potential of a drug called Farxiga to treat patients hospitalised with Covid-19 failed to meet its primary goal.
The trial failed to achieve statistical significance for the primary goal of ‘prevention measuring organ dysfunction and all-cause mortality, and the primary endpoint of recovery measuring a change in clinical status (from early recovery to death), at 30 days,’ the company said.
CAKE BOX TO REPORT RECORD REVENUE
Cake seller Cake Box Holdings (CBOX:AIM) jumped 4.7% to 266p as it reported that, despite the impact of lockdown restrictions throughout the year, in the 40 weeks from 1 June 2020 to 7 March 2021 like-for-like sales in franchise stores grew 14.7%.
As a result, it expects to report record revenue for the year up around 16% compared to the same period last year, with adjusted pre-tax profit in line with market expectations.
Freight manager Xpediator (XPD:AIM) gained 2.2% to 58p as it hiked its divided after reporting an 81% rise in annual profit.
Pre-tax profit for the year through December increased to £3.9 million, up from £2.2 million year-on-year, as revenue rose 3.7% to £221.2 million. The firm declared a full-year dividend of 1.5p per share, up 13% year-on-year.
It said the growth in revenue reflected a generally resilient performance during Covid-19-impacted months, coupled with a strong performance in the last quarter of 2020. The company said its 2021 first quarter trading results were positive and ahead of management expectations.
Tobacco giant Imperial Brands (IMB) added 0.7% to £15.52 on announcing that Lukas Paravicini would join as chief financial officer earlier than expected, on 19 May.
German business park investor Sirius Real Estate (SRE) gained 0.6% to 94.45p as its annual rent roll rose 7.6% and it collected more than 98% of rent due for the year.
Student accommodation provider Unite (UTG) fell 0.5% to £10.78 on announcing that 73% of rooms were now reserved for the 2021/22 academic year across its entire portfolio.
Brake-disc manufacturer Surface Transforms (SCE:AIM) reversed 4.1% to 69.97p, having booked a full-year loss after spending on research and development offset a broadly flat revenue performance. Surface Transforms said it was targeting a full year profit in 2022.
Ingredients supplier Treatt (TET) gained 3% to 986.5p as it said it expected to grow its first-half revenue by 14%, while also achieving an improvement in margins.