The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices remained in positive territory despite mixed US economic data that prompted weakness in the American equity markets.

The Dow Jones, Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 indexes were all trading lower at the London market close. The FTSE 100 index ended 0.2% firmer at 7030.39 and the FTSE 250 Index closed 0.83% higher at 23,626.52.

Investors were uninspired by news that American initial jobless claims rose unexpectedly during the week ended September 11th. The number of initial unemployment claims rose by 20,000 to reach 332,000. Economists had forecast a figure of 320,000.

On a more positive note American retail purchases rose 0.7% last month, following a downwardly revised 1.8% decrease in July.

POWER PLAY

Power generator Drax (DRAX) benefited from a Barclays research note that raised its price target to 960p. This equates to 120% upside potential. The shares closed 8.7% higher at 477p

ASHTEAD IN DEMAND

Equipment rental giant Ashtead (AHT) advanced 5% to £61.62 after raising its outlook on full year performance following ‘strong’ first quarter results. The forecast for annual revenue was raised to a range of 13% to 16% from 6% to 9% previously.

For the three months to July 2021, pre-tax profit powered 74% higher to $416 million year-on-year as revenue increased 21% to £1.85 billion.

Shares in construction group Kier (KIE) fell 0.4% to 124p despite the group announcing that it had returned to profitability after successive years of significant losses. Results for the year to June 30 recorded a pre-tax profit of £5.6 million compared to a £225.3 million loss during the previous year. However revenue declined from £3.5 billion to £3.2 billion due to the company exiting non-core low margin and loss making contracts.

FTSE 250 retailer Marks & Spencer (MKS) blamed Brexit for its decision to close 11 high street food stores in Paris. The group had entered the French market ten years ago using a franchise model. However recent supply chain difficulties have prevented the company from delivering fresh and chilled products to the high standards they aspire to. Shares were 2% lower at 182.2p.

Home improvement retailer Wickes (WIX) rose 2% to 237p on news it now anticipates annual adjusted pre-tax profits to come in towards the upper end of analyst expectations range of £67 million-to-£75 million after swinging to a first half profit amid ‘buoyant’ demand from local tradesmen and underpinned by strong digital sales.

The upgrade to the outlook was supported by the ‘strong outlook for Core and DIFM trends, together with half year results which delivered adjusted pre-tax profit £1.5 million ahead of guidance’, said Wickes.

Drinks group C&C (CCR) fizzed 2.6% higher to 232p on the news the Bulmers, Magners and Tennent’s maker has returned to profit ahead of plan following the gradual easing of restrictions and phased reopening of the hospitality sector across Ireland and the UK during the first half of the fiscal year.

C&C assured that while it is seeing general upward pressure on input costs and in its distribution business amid industry wide capacity constraints, its exposure to commodity inflation is largely mitigated through long-term supply contracts and partnerships and it remains ‘on track with the initiatives to deliver the €18 million in annualised cost savings announced in May 2021’.

Also in demand was online trading brokerage IG (IGG), bid up 1.8% to 847p after the online trading brokerage reported a rise in first quarter adjusted revenue, as slowing client growth was offset by a boost from the recently-acquired tastytrade.

OTHER RISERS AND FALLERS

E-commerce firm THG (THG) tumbled 6.6% to 596p, despite reporting rapid-fire first half growth, as investors were unsettled by plans for a separate listing of its beauty division next year, with the company also trailing a divvying up of its nutrition arm and Ingenuity technology and logistics platform too.

Elsewhere, fashion retailer Superdry (SDRY) strutted 14.9% higher to 327p after posting narrower annual losses as the reopening of stores and cost cuts helped offset a pandemic-led fall in revenue.

‘Trading has been encouraging since the reopening of our stores, and we’ll take a big step forward as a brand with the opening of our global flagship store in Oxford Street later in the Autumn,’ said the company.

Online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC:AIM) softened 0.5% to £30.50 despite setting out a comprehensive plan to achieve a new set of stretching ESG goals by 2030.

High-flying fantasy miniatures maker Games Workshop (GAW) cheapened 0.09% to £11.59 as it said that performance for the three months to 29 August 2021 was in line with the board’s expectations.

‘Sales continue to grow but, as with other businesses, we have seen pressure on freight costs and currency exchange rates,’ cautioned the company.

Law firm Keystone Law (KEYS:AIM) clipped ahead 9.9% to 838p on news it expects annual performance to materially exceed market expectations after reporting a jump in first half profit.

Shares in mining company Gemfields Group (GEM:AIM), fell 1.19% to 12.5p despite returning to profit. Interim net profit after tax is forecast to be approximately $23.8m. This compares with a prior year loss of $56.7 million.

 

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Issue Date: 16 Sep 2021