UK stocks plunged into the close on Monday, but the FTSE 100 still recorded its biggest monthly gain in over three decades as investors bet on a working Covid-19 vaccine to speed up an economic recovery next year.

While there was limited company news to propel the markets, investors continued to weigh optimism about potential Covid-19 vaccines against fears of a more severe economic fallout from the pandemic as virus cases continued to rise.

There’s also the spectre of a potential no-deal Brexit to think about as the 31 December transition period deadline nears.

The benchmark FTSE 100 ended the day 1.6% lower at 6,266.19 as losses in the autos, oil and banking sectors dragged stocks down.

Retailer JD Sports (JD.), up 6% at 779p, and corporate caterer Compass (CPG), off 6.6% to £13.24, led the respective FTSE leader and loser boards on Monday.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 also reversed earlier gains to close in the red, losing 0.65% to finish at 19,336.32, having enjoyed its own 12% surge this month.

NEW LEADERSHIP AT LLOYDS

Banking group Lloyds (LLOY) fell 3.5% to 35.99p after announcing the appointment of Charlie Nunn as its new chief executive.

Currently CEO of wealth and personal banking at HSBC (HSBA), Nunn will replace Lloyds’ incumbent boss Antonio Horta-Osorio in 2021.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) rallied nearly 1.5% to trade at £78.79 after its diabetes drug Forxiga was approved in Japan to treat patients with chronic heart failure.

Drug company Indivior’s (INDV) rally ran out of puff after it insisted it will ‘vigorously defend’ itself against a £1 billion claim brought by former parent Reckitt Benckiser (RB.) over an opioid addiction treatment.

The stock, which had earlier jumped 10%, saw its gains limited to a more meagre 2% by lunchtime as investors took a more considered view of the news. The share price was changing hands at 101.1p.

Indivior said the claim against the company in London is ‘without merit’ and it has ‘strong grounds for defending against the claim should it be served’.

Consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVRreversed earlier gains but kept its head marginally above water as the Marmite maker said it had completed the unification of its British and Dutch businesses into a single UK-based parent company.

The shares ended 0.4% up at £46.05.

Security company G4S (GFS) slipped 2% to 222.1p after potential suitor GardaWorld extended the deadline for shareholders to accept its 190p a share takeover offer from 16 December to 28 December.

Mike Ashley’s Frasers (FRAS) fell nearly 6% to 421.8p after confirming it has offered £50 million of emergency funding to Philip Green’s Arcadia fashion group, which is teetering on the brink of administration.

Frasers is ‘now awaiting a substantive response’ and said that should efforts to agree an emergency funding package fail and Arcadia enters into administration, then it would be ‘interested in participating in any sale process’.

Pet specialist Pets at Home (PETS) was another stock to reverse earlier gains, losing 1% to 419.4p on news that it has acquired veterinary telemedicine company The Vet Connection for £15 million.

KEYSTONE CLIMBS ON GUIDANCE UPGRADE

Elsewhere, challenger law firm Keystone Law (KEYS:AIM) jumped 9% to 490p after raising profit guidance following an ongoing recovery across its business.

During the second half of the year to date, Keystone has continued to ‘see recovery across all areas of its business with like for like performance having now returned to very near pre-Covid levels’.

Wandisco (WAND:AIM) ended 1% higher at 465p after the LiveData company announced a contract worth $3 million with ‘one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies’ to migrate one of its on-premises data lakes to Microsoft Azure ‘as its embarks on its cloud transformation journey’.

Chemistry and technology company Accsys Technologies (AXS:AIM) advanced 6% to 113p after swinging to profit in the first half of the year as higher margins offset a slip in revenue.

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Issue Date: 30 Nov 2020