The FTSE 100 index hit a new year-high on Monday, gaining 27 points or 0.4% to 7,232 by lunchtime, with energy and mining stocks doing most of the heavy lifting while industrial and consumer stocks were the main laggards.

US markets were mixed on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrials index posting a new high on strong earnings from American Express while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq pulled back from their all-time highs as chip maker Intel fell on weak earnings guidance and shares in social media company Snap fell 27% after it warned on advertising revenues.

Sterling traded sideways at $1.3770 against the dollar, while Brent crude futures pushed up a further 0.6% to $86 per barrel after the Saudi oil minister said the country was ‘in no rush’ to increase production.

COMPANY NEWS

Among FTSE stocks, Asia-focused lender HSBC (HSBA) surprised investors with a 74% rise in third quarter earnings and a $2 billion share buyback. Pretax profits for the three months to September were $5.4 billion compared with forecasts of $3.8 billion.

Chief executive Neil Quinn said the results meant ‘the lows of recent quarters are behind us’, while the buyback showed ‘confidence in the underlying performance of the business and the outlook’.

However, shares only managed a 1% gain to 439p as worries over the health of the Chinese property sector lingered.

Meanwhile, an approach over the weekend from The Co-operative Bank (11YR) for TSB, which is owned by Banco Sabadell, was rebuffed by the Spanish lender. Press reports suggested Co-operative pitched its offer at over £1 billion.

There were also reports over the weekend that broadcaster ITV (ITV) was teeing up a bid for free-to-air rival Channel 4 after the government began a review into the future of the state-owned company earlier this year.

Shares in contracts-for-difference trading platform Plus 500 (PLUS) gave up earlier gains of 3% to trade marginally higher at £14.02 after the firm said it expected full year revenues and operating profits to be ahead of current forecasts.

The firm posted a drop in new and active customers for the quarter to September but said average revenue per user was up 16% on last year and 27% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Drug maker AstraZeneca (AZN) reported positive results from late-stage trials of its imfinzi treatment in patients with advanced biliary tract cancer. In combination with chemotherapy, the treatment delivered a ‘statistically significant and clinically meaningful overall survival benefit’ compared with chemotherapy alone. Shares inched up 0.4% to £90.34.

Gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) reported a 17% increase in third quarter own mined production and said it had made ‘good progress’ in reversing the overall declining trend in quarterly own-mind gold production since the fourth quarter of 2019.

The company confirmed its own-mined production guidance of between 430,000 and 470,000 ounces and its cost projections of between $870 and $970 per ounce, but shares eased 4% to 24.4p.

The biggest faller on the day was cyber-security market darling Darktrace (DARK) which tumbled 15% to 800p after analysts at Peel Hunt began coverage of the stock with a sell recommendation and a sub-500p price target. At one stage the shares were down as much as 27%, while volumes were well above the normal daily average.

Meanwhile, the IPO boom showed no sign of slowing with two more companies announcing their intention to float. Subsea equipment rental firm Ashtead Technologies, which services the offshore wind industry, said it expected to list on the AIM market in the second half of November.

Closed-end investment company Atrato Onsite Energy, which aims to invest in onsite renewable energy assets, also announced its intention to float with a £150 million initial public offering which it expects to complete by the end of November.

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Issue Date: 25 Oct 2021