UK stocks were broadly flat on Wednesday, the FTSE 100 edging a mere 0.12% higher to 6,720.85 early on, as soaring Covid-19 cases stoked fears that Britain’s third nationwide lockdown won’t be ending any time soon, thus tempering US stimulus hopes.
Oil prices rose thanks to the weaker dollar and expectations the incoming administration across the pond will deliver massive stimulus spending that should lift fuel demand and draw down crude stocks.
In corporate news, luxury goods brand Burberry (BRBY) bounced up 4.8% to £18.22, despite reporting a 9% decline in third quarter retail like-for-like sales.
Investors focused on strong double digit growth in mainland China as well as a robust hike in full price sales driven by new, younger customers and repeat customers.
Electrical goods retailer Dixons Carphone (DC.) slipped 0.8% lower to 122.4p, despite reporting an 11% leap in like-for-like electricals revenue over the peak Christmas period as strong momentum in online sales helped offset the impact of shuttered stores owing to the pandemic.
Alex Baldock-bossed Dixons Carphone also assured it expects to deliver full year profits in line with market expectations.
WH SMITH DELIVERS
The retailer’s high street business delivered a better than expected Christmas with sales in December at 92% of 2019 levels and the online businesses continuing to serve up ‘significant year on year growth’, though December sales in the hard-pressed travel business came in at just 36% of 2019 levels.
Elsewhere, specialised products and services supplier Diploma (DPLM) sparked up 4.8% to £22.34 on news of a 24% surge in first quarter revenue driven by an ‘excellent’ contribution from the recently acquired Windy City Wire business.
In the mining sector, BHP (BHP) firmed 1.5% to £21.43 after it reported a 3% rise in fourth quarter iron ore output on a year-on-year basis, plus higher production of copper, offset by lower oil and gas output.
‘Our mines have delivered a successful fourth quarter despite continuing disruption from the pandemic and therefore I am pleased to announce that we have achieved our revised production targets for the year’, enthused chief executive Ignacio Bustamante.
‘Furthermore, our balance sheet is now in a net cash position following another period of substantial free cash flow generation driven by our strong operational performance and ongoing favourable precious metal prices.’