After a weak opening, UK stocks turned higher on Tuesday as investors responded positively to updates from BP (BP.) and Direct Line (DLG), offsetting disappointment at a profit slump at Diageo (DGE).

At midday the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 19 points or 0.3% to 6,052, consolidating yesterday’s move back above the 6,000 level.

WINNERS

BP was the biggest gainer and leading points contributor, rising 6.9% to 300p even as it slashed its dividend by 50% to 5.25c per share on the back of a $16.8bn second-quarter loss.

The loss included $9.2bn of impairment charges pinned on falling oil prices, which BP had already flagged to investors. The company pledged to reset a ‘resilient dividend' of 5.25c per quarter.

Motor and home insurer Direct Line rallied 6.3% to 327p, despite posting a 9.5% fall in first-half profit, as it lifted its interim 2020 dividend to 7.4p per share and reinstated its 2019 final dividend of 14.4p, citing the strength of its financial position.

Engineering group Melrose (MRO) jumped 6.4% to 94p after it agreed improved financial covenants with its banking syndicate up to the end of 2022 for a 'modest' cash cost.

Industrial flow control equipment manufacturer Rotork (ROR) firmed 7% to 306p even as it posted a 4.3% fall in first-half profit after sales were hit by Covid-19 related disruptions to production facilities.

Rotork didn't declare an interim dividend, but did decide to pay its previously deferred 2019 final dividend of 3.9p per share.

EasyJet (EZJ) climbed 9.3% to 554p on announcing that it would expand its flight schedule in the fourth quarter following higher-than-expected demand, while reporting third-quarter performance in line with expectations.

The budget carrier said it had notched a load factor of 84% in July, as destinations like Faro and Nice remained popular with customers.

Rival carrier Ryanair (RYA) gained 1.9% to €11.1c on announcing that it carried 70% less passengers during the month of July compared to the same month a year earlier.

The airline sector in general is making a shaky and gradual recovery as lockdowns are eased, with Ryanair operating at around 40% of its normal July schedule with a 72% load factor.

Fellow budge airline Wizz Air (WIZZ) rose 3.6% to £32.92 on news that it carried 53% less passengers during July compared to the same month last year.

Software group Oxford Metrics (OMG) added 2% to 76.5p on news that its motion measurement division Vicon had signed a contract with Electric Playbox, targeting the location-based entertainment market.

LOSERS

Alcoholic drinks maker Diageo was the FTSE’s biggest loser, sliding 5.4% to £27.26 as profits more than halved on the back of lower sales and a $1.3bn hit from impairments owing to the pandemic.

The impairment charges at Diageo were largely associated with businesses in emerging markets, including India, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Precision measurement group Spectris (SXS) dropped 3.4% to £25.53, having posted a deeper first-half loss that included asset write downs, though sales were better than expected in the second quarter.

Spectris held its interim dividend steady at 21.9p per share and said an additional dividend of 43.2p would be paid in October in lieu of the 2019 final dividend.

Aerospace and defence company Babcock (BAB) crashed 10% to 259p after it said it would not pay a final dividend for its financial year ended March amid a fall in quarterly profit owing to lower revenue.

FOR A LIST OF FTSE MOVERS SEE HERE

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

Issue Date: 04 Aug 2020