UK stocks traded steadily higher from the opening on Tuesday after US president Donald Trump accepted, after weeks of legal challenges, that a formal transition of power should begin for president-elect Joe Biden.

Trump's move added to a recent bout of market optimism fueled by positive Covid-19 vaccine news, boosting stocks and oil prices.

At midday the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 75 points or 1.2% to 6,409 with oil majors BP (BP.)and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) contributing to the gains alongside travel and leisure stocks such as IAG (IAG)and Whitbread (WTB).

WINNERS

Food service firm Compass (CPG) was another big FTSE contributor, gaining 5.5% to £14.18 after plotting a return to higher sales and margins after a tough year to the end of September.

Sales for the 12 months were down nearly 20% and operating profits down 82% but chief executive Dominic Blakemore was confident the firm would gain market share and rebuild margins.

Shares in healthcare services provider UDG Healthcare (UDG) rose 5.1% to 788p, having booked a 46% rise in annual profit, while achieving adjusted earnings that beat its previous guidance.

UDG upped its full-year dividend by 1.2% to $17.00 per share.

Building materials supplier CRH (CRH) firmed 3.3% to £30.46 having reported improved earnings, despite a slip in sales, thanks to stronger margins.

CRH's operating earnings for the first nine months of the year rose 2% to $3.4 billion and the company said it expected to post a full-year figure of more than $4.4 billion.

Meat producer Cranswick (CWK) firmed 2.1% to £37 after first-half profits were boosted by strong export growth and greater in-home consumption amid the Covid-19 lockdown.  Cranswick hiked its interim dividend by 12% to 18.7p per share.

Insurance company Phoenix Group (PHNX) added 0.8% to 790p even as it confirmed press speculation that it was mulling a sale of its European businesses.

Phoenix said it had recently received expressions of interest in the assets from third parties.

LOSERS

Water utility Pennon Group (PNN) fell 4% to 963p after it posted a large rise in first-half profit owing to a gain on the sale of its Viridor waste management division, but underlying profits slumped 48%.

Pennon halved its interim dividend to 6.77p, down from 13.66p year-on-year, and said it would prefer to spend the Viridor sale proceeds on the UK water sector, with capital returned to shareholders 'if a compelling value creating opportunity is not available'.

Pet product retailer and veterinary group Pets at Home (PETS) slid 5% to 398p despite it posting a 14% rise in first-half profit, while guiding for a flat underlying performance for the full year.

Pets at Home's underlying profit slipped 5.1% due to the impact of lockdowns in the first quarter, so its guidance implied it expected a stronger second half. It held its interim dividend steady at 2.5p per share.

Online electrical retailer AO World (AO.) dropped 6.1% to 394p, even as it swung to a first-half profit buoyed by a pandemic-fueled surge in online sales.

AO World shares had already run up hard ahead of the results release, having more than quadrupled in value since January.

 

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Issue Date: 24 Nov 2020