UK stocks fell sharply on Thursday after minutes from the US Federal Reserve's last policy meeting at the end of July struck a cautious tone on the pace of the US recovery and concerns mounted of a resurgence of the Covid virus in several European countries.

At midday the FTSE 100 index of leading stocks was down 68 points or 1.1% to 6,044, led lower by financial stocks such as wealth managers M&G (MNG) and Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) and mining firms Anglo American (AAL), Antofagasta (ANTO), Evraz (EVR) and Glencore (GLEN).

Meanwhile the FTSE 250 mid-cap index was 53 points or 0.3% lower at 17,530 as weakness in automotive stocks such as Aston Martin Lagonda (AML) and TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) was partially offset by strength in retail stocks.

Copper miner Antofagasta tumbled 5.3% to £10.88 after it announced that first-half revenue fell 15.3% as a result of lower copper prices and sales volumes.

Group copper production guidance was at the low end of the original 725-755,000 tonnes range and assumed there were no further Covid-related shutdowns during the rest of the year.

Construction supplier CRH (CRH) shed 1.9% to £29.49 on the news that first-half sales were 5% behind, with like-for-like sales down 3% on the first half of 2019 at $12.2bn due to significant disruption in the second quarter as a result of Covid.

The company also warned of 'limited visibility' for the fourth quarter and into 2021.

Infrastructure group John Laing (JLG) lost 6% to 286p after reporting a decline in group net asset value driven by challenges in its renewable energy projects, while its PPP portfolio delivered a solid financial and operational performance in the first half of 2020.

AO World (AO.) gained 4.1% to 201p as the online electrical retailer reported that in the four months ended 31 July 2020 it recorded 58.9% year-on-year revenue growth in the UK to £401.3m and 91.5% growth in Germany to €74.3m on sustained demand for its products and services.

Sportswear and department store retailer Frasers (FRAS), previously Sports Direct International, climbed 13.4% to 347p after it announced a 6.9% increase in group revenue as sales across UK sports retail and its premium lifestyle divisions were buoyed by acquisitions.

Acquisitions during the full year included GAME Digital, Jack Wills, and Brookfield Unit Trust.

Shares in babycare retailer Mothercare (MTC) were 4.2% higher to 6p as it unveiled a new business model after talks with its franchisees. The new arrangement will see franchise partners pay manufacturers directly for products.


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Issue Date: 20 Aug 2020