UK stocks moved into positive territory by lunchtime on Thursday, having recouped earlier losses as Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled increased support for firms hit by Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.

Sunak announced significant changes to the Job Support Scheme (JSS), set to replace furlough from next month.

Under the updated scheme employers will pay less and staff can work fewer hours before they quality for the scheme, in a move designed to help struggling firms that have not been told to shut.

The benchmark FTSE 100 gained 0.14% to 5,784.84, clawing back losses from earlier in the session after hitting a five-month low this morning.

The domestically-focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index rose even higher, jumping 0.71% to 17,913.56.

In company news, embattled British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) gained 2.5% to 103p despite reporting a big quarterly loss and further downgrading its capacity outlook for the rest of the year due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Unilever (ULVR) edged 0.5% higher to £47.28 after it reported a stronger-than-expected return to sales growth in the third quarter, led by emerging markets where it generates the bulk of its revenue.

Mining company Anglo American (AAL) increased 0.8% to £19.66 reported a 24% rise in quarterly production in the third quarter compared to the second.

CLEANING UP

Rentokil Initial (RTO) rallied 4.2% to 538.6p after it reported ongoing revenue growth of 9.8% in the third quarter of 2020 as it returned to a programme of acquisitions.

Publishing and events company RELX (REL) traded virtually flat at £16.54 after it reported a 70% decline in revenue for its exhibitions and events business over the course of 2020 to the end of September.

Mining company Polymetal International (POLY) gained 1.6% to £17.94 after it reported a 35% jump in third-quarter revenue as gold and silver prices rose. Revenue for the period reached $884 million.

Scientific measurement kit maker Renishaw (RSW) gained 1.14% to £57.75 with the company reporting that its adjusted profit before tax jumped by more than 300% in the three months to the end of September when compared to the same period last year.

Total revenue for the quarter declined to £116.9 million, down by 6%, but profit before tax reached £18.3 million compared to £4.3 million a year earlier.

SAVE OUR WEST END

Property investment company Capital & Counties (CAPC) said it had invested another £65 million in West End property investor Shaftesbury (SHB), increasing its stake to over 25%.

The company saw its share price dive around 9.8% 102.7p with the new investment coming as part of the latter’s deeply discounted cash call hoping to raise more than £300 million. Shaftesbury saw its own share price plunge more than 15% to 420p.

Shaftesbury is a massive owner of West End property, and area of London massively impacted by the UK’s lockdown rules.

Estate agent Countrywide (CWD) slumped 12% to 162p as it urged shareholders to back a recapitalisation plan. The plan would see Alchemy take a majority stake in the company with a £90 million investment and shake up the board with a new leadership team.

Builders merchant Travis Perkins (TPK) gained 3.3% to £12.60 after it recorded like-for-like revenue growth of 3.9% in the third quarter of 2020. It cited strong performance from its Wickes and Toolstation brands, with the latter recording like-for-like sales growth of 25.5%.

Industrial controls manufacturer Spectris (SXS) fell 3.1% to £25.83 after it reported a like-for-like sales decline of 9% in the third quarter of 2020, though this was better than the 18% decline seen in Q2.

Online comparison site Moneysupermarket.com (MONY) dropped 4.7% to 254.4p having reported a 16% fall in revenue in the third quarter of 2020 amid tighter bank lending conditions.

Online music and equipment retailer Gear4music (G4M:AIM) rose 2.68% to 708.5p after upgrading its outlook after reporting a jump in sales in the first of the year as strong demand continued.

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Issue Date: 22 Oct 2020