UK markets finished in the red on Thursday as a batch of blue-chip firms traded ex-dividend and investors fretted over resurgent Brexit fears and an October end to the furlough scheme.

Coming off a strong run, the pause for breath occurred despite an impressive jobless claims report out of the US, with initial jobless claims dropping below one million for the first time since March.

The FTSE 100 finished down 94.5 points, or 1.5%, at 6,185.62, while the FTSE 250 ended the session 0.91% lower at 17,924.60.

Travel company TUI (TUI) travelled down 6.2% to 344.7p on the news group revenue fell 98% to €75 million as its business came to a standstill in the third quarter.

It reported that while hotel volumes remain significantly lower than usual summer levels, there were ‘encouraging signs’ of customer demand, with average occupancy of 23% this summer.

Retirement products provider Just Group (JUST) jumped 8.1% to 55p after saying it expected ‘significantly higher’ sales in the second half of the year, as the company reported that first-half profit more than doubled driven by investment and economic profits owing to the fall in interest rates.

National Express (NEX) decelerated 14.1% to 151.2p after the bus and train company saw falls in revenue and posted an underlying pre-tax loss as Covid-19 caused passenger demand to plunge 80% in the first half of 2020.

The company said while there were ‘encouraging early signs of demand’ as services gradually restarted, activity remained at ‘suppressed levels’.

Betting group GVC (GVC) cheapened 0.43% to 782p as it announced strong online gaming revenue had partly offset weakness in retail, helping it swing to a first-half profit.

The sports betting company reported an underlying pre-tax profit of £24.8 million compared with a loss of £12.3 million, while revenue fell 10% to $1.58 billion in the six months ended 30 June 2020.

Croda (CRDA) closed up 2p at £60.20 on the news the chemical company has now completed the acquisition of Avanti Polar Lipids, following approval from the US regulatory authorities.

Luxury goods retailer Watches of Switzerland (WOSG) surged 24% higher to 324p as it shrugged off the impact of the pandemic to report record sales for the year to 26 April 2020 and said trading in the first quarter of its 2021 financial year has exceeded expectations in the UK and US.

Topps Tiles (TPT) rallied 11.2% to 48.1p after the tile specialist reported robust like-for-like growth over the last six weeks and said it now expects to generate a modest adjusted pre-tax profit for the year ended 26 September 2020.

Helios Towers (HTWS) finished 8.8% lower at 162.2p as pre-tax losses widened in the six months to 30 June 2020 to $83 million from $18.7 million, while revenue rose 7% to $204 million, boosted by continued growth in the number of sites and tenancies across the group.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 13 Aug 2020