After good gains in the previous two sessions, UK stocks marked time on Thursday as Brexit negotiations remained gridlocked and Russia and Saudi Arabia argued over extending production cuts agreed at the start of the pandemic.
At 8.30am the FTSE 100 index of leading stocks was almost unchanged at 6,466 points with weakness in banks and utilities offsetting gains in industrial and consumer stocks. Meanwhile, sterling gained 0.2% to recapture the $1.34 level and gold rallied 0.6% to $1,842.
Supermarket group Sainsburys (SBRY) was one of the best performers, adding 2.5% to 215p after it joined rival Tesco (TSCO) in forgoing business rate relief on its stores granted by the chancellor since March.
The firm said its decision to pass up around £450 million of relief was prompted by the fact sales and profits were ‘stronger than originally expected, particularly since the start of the second national lockdown in England’.
Shares in bus and rail operator Go-Ahead (GOG) accelerated 3% to 884p after it reported a better than expected performance from its London and International bus division in a trading update for the five months to the start of December.
The firm said expectations for the division are now ‘ahead of previous guidance’ although regional bus services continue to be impacted by lockdowns with passenger numbers more than 50% below pre-pandemic levels.
Investment platform AJ Bell (AJB) registered a strong increase in revenues and assets under management (AUM) for the year to the end of September, driving a 29% increase in pre-tax earnings.
Revenues rose 21% to £126.7 million helped by net inflows of £4.2 billion, which took total assets to £56.5 billion, a rise of 8% compared with a 19% fall in the FTSE All-Share index. Shares climbed 2.5% to 435p.
Assets rose 34% to £20.2 billion driven by net inflows of £3.5 billion and investment gains of £1.6 billion, driving a 19% increase in revenues and a 29% increase in operating profits. The firm saw further inflows of £1.9 billion in the first two months of its current financial year. Shares edged up 0.7% to 614p.
Logistics and e-fulfilment firm Clipper (CLG) raised its full year guidance after better than expected trading in the first half to the end of October and record volumes for some of its sites over the Black Friday weekend.
Turnover for the period rose almost 20% to £305 million, driven by 37.7% growth in e-fulfilment and returns revenues, leading to a 21.7% rise in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to £20.2 million. Shares rallied 5.3% to 16p.
Fire and safety services firm Marlowe (MRL) posted a 7% rise in revenues from continued operations in the half-year to the end of September and said Covid was ‘no longer having a material impact on the business’. Shares nudged 0.9% higher to 575p.
SEE HERE FOR A LIST OF FTSE GAINERS AND LOSERS
DISCLAIMER: The author owns shares in AJ Bell Limited, which owns Shares magazine