Equity markets were muted on Friday after racking up solid gains in the earlier part of the week, with investors awaiting the all-important US monthly non-farm payroll report due out this afternoon.

Last night, US markets hit new highs on growing optimism after a fall in weekly unemployment claims and a record high reading on the services PMI as spending shifted from goods to services.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs raised its year-end target for the S&P 500 index based on a combination of higher earnings and lower than expected interest rates.

Sterling eased to $1.391 ahead of the US jobs data, while oil prices rose with Brent crude futures up 1.2% to $71.25 per barrel. Gold remained in the doldrums though, dropping towards $1,800 per ounce again.

At midday the FTSE 100 index was flat at 7,126 points.

COMPANY NEWS

The Fortress-led private equity consortium raised its takeover bid for Morrisons (MRW) to 270p per share plus a 2p special dividend. Rival CD&R has a deadline of 5pm on Monday 9 August to make a firm offer, suggesting the bidding war for the UK supermarket, up 2.4% to 278.5p, is far from over.

Financial markets and information group London Stock Exchange (LSEG) posted a 4.6% increase in first half income and an 18.6% increase in average earnings per share, including the contribution from Refinitiv.

Synergies from the acquisition are now expected to be £125 million for the full year, up from a previous estimate of £88 million. Shares topped the FTSE 100 leader board, gaining 4% to £77.68.

Public services outsourcing firm Capita (CPI) swung to a first half pre-tax profit of £45.3 million compared with a loss of £11.1 million last year thanks to a recovery in revenues and ongoing cost efficiencies.

New contract wins in the half came to £2.58 billion, 70% higher than a year ago, with £769 million of revenues due to come in this year, an increase of 13%. Shares gained 1.5% to 36.5p.

Drug maker Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) reported a 7% increase in first half revenues and an 18% increase in earnings to $223 million thanks to a strong performance in generic drugs and a resilient performance from its injectables division.

The firm raised its full year guidance for generic product revenues to between $810 million and $830 million thanks to higher sales of new products. Shares dipped 5.7% to £24.92.

IN OTHER NEWS

The Renewable Infrastructure Group (TRIG) posted a 0.9% fall in first half net asset value per share to 114.3p compared with last December, leaving its shares flat at 134.2p.

The firm said higher power prices and active portfolio management had helped offset the impact of lower levels of wind power and changes in its tax regime.

Shares in recently listed cyber-security firm Darktrace (DARK) dropped 7% to 637.5p after a group of major shareholders sold 23.15 million shares at 620p, close to a 10% discount to last night’s closing price.

Shares were floated on 30 April at 250p per share, so the placing banks agreed to waive the sellers’ lock-up agreements to allow them to exit early.

Consumer self-care company Venture Life (VLG:AIM) gained 3.3% to trade at 91p on the £4.7 million earnings enhancing acquisition of oncology support products from Helsinn Healthcare.

Beverages business East Imperial (EISB) fizzed 8% higher to 13.5p on the news it has reached an agreement with Dan Murphy’s to supply its premium tonics range across the Australian retailer’s 245 national stores as well as through its online channels.

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Issue Date: 06 Aug 2021