UK stocks eased on Monday ahead of the latest round of talks with the European Union regarding Britain’s post-Brexit trading relationship with the bloc. Early confidence that a deal could be reached quickly has ebbed, with the two sides seemingly as far apart as ever.

Sterling was steady against the US dollar at $1.2560 while Brent crude futures fell for a third session to $42.75 and gold prices continued to climb, touching $1,810 per ounce.

The FTSE 100 index fell 1% to 6,228 points in early trading, weighed down by oil giants BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) which lost 2.3% each to 302p and £12.11 respectively.

Also weaker were hotel firms IHG (IHG), down 3.5% to £37.40, and Whitbread (WTB) down 3% to £22.44 as new cases of Covid-19 continue to spread in the US and in Europe.

HEALTHCARE WINNERS

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) gained 2.5% to £94.14 as investors anticipated a positive update later today on the firm’s joint venture with Oxford University to produce a coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile shares in respiratory drug maker Synairgen (SNG) leapt 167% to 97.5p after the firm released positive data from trials of its inhaled formulation of interferon beta in hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

Patients who received Synairgen’s SNG001 treatment had a 79% lower risk of developing severe disease and were more than twice as likely to recover from the virus as those on placebo.

MID- AND SMALL-CAP MOVERS

Shares in housebuilders Bellway (BWY) and Taylor Wimpey (TW.) advanced 1% apiece after estate agency portal Rightmove (RMV) published its latest UK house price index, which showed a 3.7% increase in average selling prices in July - the steepest rise for three years - after the chancellor temporarily abolished stamp duty on houses worth up to £500,000.

Specialist staffing firm SThree (STEM) dipped 0.9% to 269p after it reported a 7% fall in net fee income to £151.2 million for the six months to 31 May, significantly better than its mainstream rivals.

Asset management consultancy MJ Hudson (MHJ:AIM) traded sideways at 49p following a positive trading update with revenues for the year to 30 June rising 24% to £20.8 million.

Shares in media platform Future (FUTR) rallied 6.9% to £12.93 after the company posted a trading update regarding the integration of TI Media.

Guarantor lender Amigo Holdings (AMGO) was a major loser, falling 26% to 7.2p after it revealed a 7% increase in revenues to £294.2 million but a 9.1% contraction in its net loan book to £643.1 million for the year to 31 March.

The firm also revealed it had taken significant costs and provisions for complaints, totalling £244.3 million, after warning of a ‘material’ hit to its results last month.

FOR A LIST OF FTSE GAINERS AND LOSERS SEE HERE

 

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Issue Date: 20 Jul 2020