London’s FTSE traded lower on Thursday, the blue chip benchmark down 0.97% at 6,323.56 points following a soft session on Wall Street and in spite of positive vaccine updates.
Investors remained concerned by the continuing spread of coronavirus, worried that Covid-19 restrictions will slow the economic recovery, as well as by the lack of progress on a new stimulus aid package across the pond.
Shares in AstraZeneca (AZN) improved 0.9% to £82.52 on news data from mid-stage trials showed a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by the drugs giant and Oxford University produces a strong immune response in older adults, meaning it may protect some of those most vulnerable to the disease.
Royal Mail (RMG) rose 6.4% to 304.3p after upgrading its full year revenue forecast thanks to the surge in online shopping driven by coronavirus lockdowns. The postal service now expects revenue to be £380 million-to-£580 million pounds higher year-on-year and said its main UK business could break even if the top end of that estimate is achieved.
RETAIL LOCKDOWN WINNERS
For the three months ended 31 October, sales grew 17.6% to £3.5 billion and in the current fourth quarter to 14 November, like-for-like sales were up 12.6%, largely reflecting ‘the impact of more recent temporary lockdown measures’.
The company also upgraded its full year sales growth guidance to 55%-to-65% with positive trading momentum having been sustained into the start of the second half of the year, although management is ‘mindful of significant levels of political and economic uncertainty’.
OTHER COMPANY NEWS
Halma now expects adjusted pre-tax for 2020/21 to be around 5% below 2019/20, compared with prior guidance of 5% to 10% below FY 2019/20, citing improved trading performance and plans to accelerate strategic investments in the second half of the year.
Floorcoverings distributor Headlam (HEAD) was marked up 12% to 365p on news it now expects full year underlying pre-tax profit to come in ‘materially ahead’ of the breakeven performance anticipated by analysts. This follows a ‘sustained recovery’ in performance in the second half to date, as well as and management’s continued focus on costs.
Chemicals company Johnson Matthey slipped 1.56% to £25.09 after cutting its dividend and reporting a slump in profit in the first half of the year.