After a strong morning session, lifted by hopes of further fiscal stimulus in the US, UK stocks gave up most of their day’s gains on Thursday as momentum was undermined by weak economic data and a sharp fall in oil prices.
At the close the FTSE 100 index was up just 13 points or 0.2% to 5,879, with Brent oil prices tumbling 5% to $40 per barrel which sent shares in big oil stocks BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) lower, countering the earlier rally in materials and utilities.
Among the major gainers, shares in motoring and cycling products and services group Halfords (HFD) accelerated even faster in the afternoon session, closing up 31% at a new 12-month high of 238p after the firm upgraded its half-year profit outlook amid stronger than forecast sales.
First-half pre-tax profits are now expected to be in excess of £55 million compared with recent guidance of £35 million to £40 million thanks to continued momentum in cycling and motoring products and services.
Shares in litigation finance provider Burford Capital (BUR:AIM) gained 7.5% to 672p after earlier trading as high as 726p, as realisations from its investments during the half-year to June came in well ahead of market expectations.
Importantly, there was no contribution from Burford’s biggest case, the Petersen claim against the controversial 2012 nationalisation of Argentinian oil company YPF, showing the capacity of the firm’s broader portfolio to generate significant capital gains.
Over-the-counter payment services group Paypoint (PAY) rebounded 7.7% to 543p after plunging 17% yesterday following news that energy regulator Ofgem was investigating the company for a possible breach of competition law.
AIM-listed document storage and security firm Restore (RST:AIM) jumped 6.7% to 341p after it reported a ‘significant’ jump in revenues and profitability in the third quarter compared with the second quarter thanks to increased client demand, market share gains and new business wins.
Shares in financial services company Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) rose 3.2% to 233p following the news it would extend its share buyback programme until the end of January. The company repurchased £279 million worth of shares between 19 February and 30 September 2020.
Medical technology group Smith & Nephew (SN.) edged up 1.3% to £15.36 as it forecast a 4% decline in underlying revenue for the third quarter of 2020, marking a significant improvement in momentum since the second quarter when underlying revenues fell 29%.
Foreign exchange risk management and payments company Alpha FX (AFX:AIM) upgraded its full-year performance expectations, forecasting earnings in line with last year as 'strong' performance in July and August continued into September. Shares were up 1.4% to £10.90.
Aerospace engineering firm Rolls-Royce (RR.) was a heavy faller, losing 10% to 117p after it announced plans to raise around £2 billion through a fully underwritten 10 for 3 rights issue aimed at improving liquidity and reducing balance sheet leverage.
The firm also plans to raise a further £1 billion through debt issuance 'in the near future', and has agreed a new two-year loan facility of £1 billion conditional on the success of the rights issue. However, shares are down over 80% so far this year.
Soft drinks maker Britvic (BVIC) said it had completed the sale of its juice assets in France to Refresco. The sale included three juice manufacturing sites, related private label juice business and the Fruite brand. Investors shrugged off the news however, sending the shares down 6% to 770p.
Home improvement retailer Kingfisher (KGF) completed the sale of Castorama Russia to Maxidom, a home improvement company in Russia, for RUB 7.4 billion or about £73 million. Again, investors seemed to ignore the news with the shares trading marginally lower at 296p at midday.