The FTSE 100 moved into positive territory by lunchtime after beginning the day in the red as investors wait for the latest update on US monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, due later in the day.

The Fed’s chair Jay Powell has already made clear the US central bank isn’t in a rush to raise interest rates from their record low of 0.25%, but equally has stated that he doesn’t want to take rates into negative territory.

As investors wait for the decision, Britain’s benchmark index was up 0.18% to 6,140.14 just before 1pm.

Meanwhile a surprise source of positivity for the FTSE was clothing retailer Next (NXT), which jumped 6.4% to £56 as it upgraded its annual profit guidance, having experienced a lower-than-expected fall in second-quarter sales.

Next’s full-price sales for the three months through June fell 28% on-year, which the company said was 'much better' than it had expected.

Barclays (BARC) slumped 5.74% to 105.4p after its profit more than halved on the back of a £3.7 billion credit impairment charge linked to the coronavirus crisis.

The bank said impairment charges in the second half would be below the first, but still above levels experienced in recent years.

Mining giant Rio Tinto (RIO) rose 1.53% to £48.38, even as it booked a 20% drop in first-half profit amid disruptions from the pandemic.

Rio Tinto also lifted its interim dividend, by 3%, citing a strong balance sheet.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) gained 1.08% to £16.22 after it and partner Sanofi agreed to supply up to 60m doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine to the UK government.

House builder Taylor Wimpey (TW.) sank 7.9% to 122.5p on swinging to a first-half loss after coronavirus lockdowns forced the temporary closure of its sites.

Taylor Wimpey did not declare an interim dividend, but said it expected to recommence dividend payments in 2021, with regards to the 2020 final dividend, amid a recovery in demand.

Luxury car marker Aston Martin Lagonda (AML) revved 8.1% higher to 53.6p, despite its first-half losses widening sharply as sales plunged.

Aston Martin said more than 90% of its dealer network globally was now open following an easing of lockdowns.

Medical technology group Smith and Nephew (SN.) fell 1.6% to £16.03, having swung to a first-half loss after restrictions were placed on elective surgery in the fight against coronavirus.

Healthcare facility investor Primary Health Properties (PHP) gained 1.5% to 152.8p as it upped its dividend after it swung to a first-half profit, on the back of higher rental income and positive property revaluations.

Packaging company Smurfit Kappa (SKG) rallied 4.5% to £25.94, even as it posted a 16% fall in first-half profit after revenue was hit by weaker demand owing to the coronavirus crisis, adverse foreign exchange movements and a fall in box prices.

Smurfit Kappa, however, declared an interim dividend of 80.9c per share, which was the equivalent amount of its withdrawn 2019 final dividend.

Engineering and industrial software group Aveva (AVV) gained 2.9% to £42.80 even as its revenue fell 3.5% in the fiscal first quarter.

Budget carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ) ascended 4.1% to £35.38, despite it swinging to a deep first-quarter loss after the Covid-19 crisis forced it to ground most of its fleet.

Wizz said it was operating at about 70% of capacity at the end of June, compared to an average of 11.5% in the first quarter.

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Issue Date: 29 Jul 2020