UK stocks resisted the general downdraft in markets after official figures showed the economy grew 0.9% in November compared with October, well ahead of the consensus forecast of a 0.4% increase and taking it back above its February 2020 pre-pandemic level for the first time.
US markets fell sharply overnight after more hints from the Federal Reserve that interest rates could rise sooner rather than later. The technology-heavy Nasdaq 100 index closed down 2.6% with big losses for ecommerce platforms JD.Com and MercadoLibre along with electric vehicle maker Tesla.
Sterling continued to climb against the dollar, reaching $1.3740, while Brent crude futures pushed up another 1.5% to $85.40 supported by higher European gas prices.
At 9am the FTSE 100 was flat at 7,564 points with banks and builders making gains while industrial and export-oriented stocks eased due to the strength of the pound.
Mr Lafferty was previously chief financial officer at the Williams grand prix team, giving him experience of the world of Formula One. Aston Martin shares gained 0.7% to £14.30 while Vivo Energy shares were flat at 131p.
Media and events group Bonhill Group (BONH) posted a mixed trading update, sending its shares down 13% to 7.6p. Due to the impact of Covid, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) for 2021 will be significantly lower than expected at just £0.2 million.
On the other hand, bookings for this year are higher than at the same stage last year thanks to ‘significant new business in US digital and strong support for its UK financial services events’.
Shares in Cineworld (CINE) moved up 2% to 39.7p thanks to a strong pick-up in box office revenues in December in the UK and US on the back of the latest Spiderman film, which was the first to gross more than $1.5 billion since the start of the pandemic.
Chief executive Mooky Greidinger was also upbeat about the slate of films coming this year including the delayed Top Gun: Maverick, Mission Impossible 7 and Avatar 2.
Electricals retailer Currys (CURY) was the worst performer in the FTSE 250, falling 5.7% to 106p after it lowered its full year pre-tax profit guidance from £160 million to £155 million after what it described as a ‘challenging Christmas with uneven customer demand and supply disruption’.
Over the peak trading period, that is the 10 weeks to 8 January, the group posted a 5% fall in sales compared with 2020 due to a 6% drop in UK sales as tech sales remained subdued, although sales of games and virtual reality gear were a bright spot.
Information services firm Experian (EXPN) painted a much rosier picture after third quarter revenues topped expectations, leading it to raise its full year like for like revenue growth forecast to between 12% and 13% along with ‘strong EBIT margin accretion’. However, shares drifted off 1.8% to £30.98 due to its large US dollar exposure.
Shares in convenience store chain McColl’s Retail (MCLS) dropped 6% to 10.8p after it revealed chief commercial officer Richard Crampton was stepping down with immediate effect to take up a senior role at supermarket group Sainsbury’s (SBRY).
Shares in fashion brand Quiz (QUIZ:AIM) jumped 10% to 17.3p following its strong December trading update. Group revenues during the key Christmas period were up 20% thanks to a 64% surge in in-store sales, more than offsetting a drop in online activity due to the termination of certain third-party agreements.
Clinical data specialist Sensyne Health (SENS) was a major faller, dropping 57% to 32p following news that its formal sales process had yet to identify a buyer and it was running out of money fast.
Although meetings were held last month with corporates and financial sponsors, there was no guarantee a buyer could be found or an offer would be made.
Meanwhile, the firm is owed a substantial amount from one of its customers and has had to go to institutions and its broker to borrow money to keep the lights on. Without a deal, the company said it was ‘unlikely to be able to continue to trade beyond early February’.
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