London’s FTSE 100 took a turn for the worse in afternoon trading on Monday as rising coronavirus cases and the prospect of tighter lockdown restrictions finally caught up with the stock market.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the UK is at a ‘perilous’ moment in the pandemic and said ministers are keeping lockdown restrictions under ‘constant review’, adding that ‘where we have to tighten the rules we will’.

Not helping sentiment was a warning from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the economy ‘will get worse before it gets better’.

Having initially opened relatively unchanged, the UK’s benchmark index closed 1.09% lower to 6,798.48, with the darker mood not just isolated to the UK as France’s CAC 40 dropped 0.83% and Germany’s DAX fell 0.74%.

The midcap FTSE 250 index was also a big faller, closing 1.37% lower to 20,776.13.

SHOES SHINE FOR JD

Shoe and sports apparel retailer JD Sports Fashion (JD.) climbed 3.81% to 883.2p as it upgraded its profit outlook amid robust second-half demand, including during the key months of November and December.

JD Sports’s pre-tax headline profit for the year through January is now anticipated to be at least £400 million, up from current expectations averaging around £295 million.

Medical technology group Smith & Nephew (SN.) dropped 2.27% to £15.82 on guiding for a fall a fall in fourth-quarter revenue amid a surge in Covid-19 infection rates.

Smith & Nephew’s underlying revenue for the three months through December was seen falling by around 7%, bringing the fall for the full year to around 12%.

Budget airline EasyJet (EZJ) gained 2.09% to 803.04p after it secured a $1.87 billion five-year term loan from UK Export Finance to strengthen its balance sheet.

Delivery services group Royal Mail (RMG) fell 1.72% to 354.1p on confirming the appointment of current director Simon Thompson as chief executive of its UK business.

Stuart Simpson, who had been serving as acting CEO of the UK business, will leave the company at the end of January following a short handover period.

Residential landlord Grainger (GRI) fell 2% to 283p, having acquired a forward-fund build-to-rent development in Bristol for about £63.1 million.

Sports-betting and gaming group Entain (ENT) shed 1.86% to £14.47 on announcing that chief executive Shay Segev is standing down, either at the end of a six-month notice period or until a successor is in place.

Entain said the change had no bearing on its view of a recent takeover bid for the group by MGM Resorts International.

WRAP OF THE REST

Student accommodation provider Unite (UTG) fell 1.73% to 991.5p following news that it is offering students a discount on their rent in the wake of the UK’s new nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Students are able to apply for a discount of 50% of their rent for a total of four weeks. The associated loss of rental income is expected to result in a reduction to EPRA earnings per share of up to £8 million, or 2p, for the 2021 financial year.

Building materials group SIG (SHI) soared 9.81% to 33.93p, having guided for a smaller-than-expected annual loss following a recovery in the fourth quarter.

SIG’s underlying operating losses for the year through December were expected in the range of £57 million-to-£61 million. Like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter grew 4% year-on-year, limiting the full-year fall to 13%.

Consultancy company Science Group (SAG:AIM) rallied 14.83% to 333p as it upgraded its annual earnings expectations amid a rise in sales.

Science Group also announced the looming departure of finance director Rebecca Archer, to be replaced by Sameet Vohra, who was most recently interim finance director at fashion retailer Ted Baker.

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Issue Date: 11 Jan 2021