UK stocks traded almost unchanged on Monday as investors braced themselves for the introduction of new local Covid-19 meaures to be outlined later in the day by prime minister Boris Johnson.
The FTSE 100 index added 5 points to 6,022 with gains in financial companies offsetting weakness in energy and consumer stocks.
Johnson is expected to announce a three-tier grading system for restrictions that could force pubs, bars and gyms in some local areas to close.
US index futures pointed to a stronger session in New York while sterling dipped below $1.30 briefly. Brent crude prices held steady at $42.25 per barrel and gold prices were 0.4% lower at $1,922 an ounce.
Aero engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.) was once again the best performer in the benchmark, climbing 5.2% to 235p having completed its rescue rights issue and after stake building by large investors.
AstraZeneca said it would initiate two related phase-three clinical trials, expected to kick off in the coming weeks.
The terms of the licence included a wagering limit of €1,000 per month that can be increased to €10,000 subject to certain criteria being met, or further to €30,000 for 1% of customers, subject to enhanced due diligence and certain loss limits.
The terms also included deposit limits, in-force until customer verification processes were complete, a maximum annual bonus per customer of €100 and the inclusion of certain responsibility requirements by the licence holder. Shares fell 1.5% to £10.74.
International Airlines Group descended 1.7% to 102p on the news that Alex Cruz would stand down as chief executive of British Airways.
Cruz will be replaced by Aer Lingus chairman and chief executive Sean Doyle, though he will remain as British Airways non-executive chairman.
MID- AND SMALL-CAP MOVERS
Shares in immunotherapies developer Scancell (SCLP) leapt 9.4% to 17.5p, even as it raised £30 million from funds managed by US specialist healthcare investor Redmile at a price of 13p. Scancell said it was also planning to raise around £3 million from an open offer of shares at the same price.
Cake retailer Cake Box (CBOX) rose 5.5% to 174p, despite having reported a fall in first-half revenue owing to the impact of store closures, as it reassured pre-pandemic momentum had resumed as Covid-19 restrictions eased.
For the 20 weeks to 30 September, like-for-like sales jumped around 12%, the company said.
Power control component supplier XP Power (XPP) rallied 2.1% to £48.00, having guided for an annual performance towards the top end of current analyst expectations after its third-quarter revenue jumped 28%.
On what was a big day for executive appointments, XP Power also announced that chief executive Duncan Penny would retire at the end of 2020 to be replaced by chief financial officer Gavin Griggs.
In a third-quarter trading update, logistics warehouse company Tritax Big Box Reit (BBOX) said the UK continued to strengthen. The company added it sees ‘potential for further yield compression in the near-term given attractive structural trends and the secure, long-term income offered by large-scale modern logistics buildings.’
The company also declared a dividend to 30 September 2020 of 1.5625 pence per ordinary share, payable on or around 13 November 2020 to shareholders on the register on 23 October 2020. Shares added 2% to 165p.
Real Estate company Great Portland Estates (GPOR) reported it had collected 61% of rent of the September quarter and said that while rental collection and occupancy rates had improved since March, many sectors remained challenged.
For the quarter to 30 September 2020, 61% of rents due was secured within seven working days, up from 57% seen in the June quarter. To date, September quarterly recent collection had risen to 63%, the company said. For September, the company had collected 73% of rent to date. Shares nudged up 1% to 650p.
Oil services group Petrofac (PFC) ticked up 0.8% to 117.4p following news that chief executive Ayman Asfari would retire at the end of the year, to focus on his family, health and charitable interests.
He would be replaced by Sami Iskander, executive vice president for Shell's upstream joint ventures business between 2016 and 2019.
Bus and rail company National Express (NEX) fell 3% to 169p on announcing it had appointed Ignacio Garat as chief executive to replace current interim CEO Chris Davies.
Garat was most recently senior vice president Southern Europe, France and Benelux operations for FedEx.
Shares in Middle East and Africa focused payments firm Network International (NETW) fell 3.7% to 305p after guiding for a 17% drop in annual revenue, which it said was at the top end of its guidance range.
Revenue in the third quarter also had fallen 17%, which Network International said marked an improvement from the 23% decline experienced in the second quarter.
Engineering and industrial software group Aveva (AVV) reversed 4.7% to £45.11 after it forecast a drop in first half revenue to £333 million, citing FX headwinds and two subscription deals which slipped into the third quarter. Last year Aveva reported first-half revenue of £391.9 million.
Shares in AIM-listed foreign exchange provider Argentex (AGFX:AIM) tumbled 18% to 111.5p after it forecast close to a 15% drop in first half revenues due to subdued trading activity by its customers.
Despite the firm holding out hope of a second half rebound, broker Numis cut its full year revenue forecast by 13% and slashed its earnings forecast by more than 30%.