The FTSE 100 was down 0.1% to 6,149.04 early on amid continuing negative news on Covid-19 from the US and as chancellor Rishi Sunak warned of 'difficult times ahead'.

Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.) has tumbled 8.4% to 263.6p after it reported a free cash outflow of £3bn in the first half as widebody engine flying hours fell by approximately 75% in the second quarter.

In a trading update for the first half of 2020, the company said cashflows had been 'significantly affected' by Covid-19.

The utilities sector was on the back foot after regulator Ofgem proposed cutting by around 50% the returns firms can make to cover the costs of maintenance and improvement on gas electricity networks.

Shares in SSE (SSE) were down 1.1% to £13.28 as it responded negatively to the news, with National Grid (NG.) falling 3.8% to 864.8p as it joined the backlash to the plans.

Miner Rio Tinto (RIO) advanced 3.3% to 98.7p on the news that it plans to start winding down operations at New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) following a strategic review which concluded the business is no longer viable.

It said that NZAS had given Meridian Energy notice to terminate the power contract, which will end in August 2021.

Housebuilder Persimmon (PSN) climbed 4.8% to £25.49 after it said in a trading update for the first half that sales levels were 'encouraging'.

The company reported that forward sales of new homes reached £1.86bn by 30 June, up 15% on last year and its build programme returned to normal levels.

The whole sector received a boost from yesterday's Summer Statement which raised the threshold on stamp duty for property transactions to £500,000 until March 2021.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) headed 0.4% lower to £85.48 after the pharma giant said the US Food and Drug Administration had accepted supplemental new drug application and granted priority review for a drug used to reduce subsequent stroke in patients who experienced an acute ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack.

Building materials distributor Grafton (GFTU) has gained 4.2% to 667p on the news it remained uncertain about the revenue outlook for the second half of the year as better than anticipated performance in June was likely boosted by pent-up demand.

Alcoholic drinks maker C&C (CCR) has bounced 3.5% higher to 237p on the announcement that it has appointed David Forde as chief executive officer, who has joined from Heineken.

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Issue Date: 09 Jul 2020