The UK’s leading stocks clung on to gains at lunchtime as investors turn their attention to Wall Street’s opening. The benchmark FTSE 100 held on to the 0.4% rise earned through the morning session on Thursday buoyed by minutes from the US Federal Reserve meeting indicating that the central bank’s ‘accommodative stance’ to monetary policy will remain for now.
At 12.30pm, the FTSE 100 traded at 6,913.13, while the FTSE 250 nudged 0.2% higher to 22,204.93.
The latest signal from the Fed that it has no intention of lifting interest rates anytime soon helped set the FTSE 100 on course for a third straight day of gains, supported by heavyweight miner Anglo American’s (AAL) demerger of its thermal coal business in South Africa.
Eyes now turn to the US as speculation emerges that US President Joe Biden’s tax plans may hit fewer companies than his campaign promises suggested. This is helping support tech stocks as Wall Street gets ready to open, with steady gains for both the SD&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 anticipated.
ANOTHER UPGRADE FOR ASOS
Online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC:AIM) lost earlier gains to drift 1.2% lower to £57.17 despite raising full-year guidance following a jump in first-half profit as sales were boosted by the pandemic-driven surge in online shopping.
Results for the half to 28 February revealed total sales growth of 25% and a 275% surge in adjusted pre-tax profits to £112.9 million.
‘These record results, which include robust growth in sales, customer numbers and profitability, demonstrate the significant progress we have made against all of our strategic priorities and the strength of our execution capability,’ commented CEO Nick Beighton, adding that ‘the swift integration of the Topshop brands and the impressive early customer engagement is also especially pleasing.’
Elsewhere in retail, homewares leader Dunelm (DNLM) was marked up 2.5% to £13.82 as the homewares leader said it expects full-year profit to be ‘modestly ahead’ of the top of the £120 million-to-£125 million consensus range, assuming the majority of its stores reopen as expected on 12 April and there are no further Covid restrictions in the current financial year.
Though Dunelm’s total sales for the third quarter ended 27 March 2021 were down 16.8% at £236.6 million as a result of the shuttering of its store estate, the best-in-class cushions-to-kitchenware seller benefited from surging digital sales.
Chemicals giant Johnson Matthey (JMAT) rallied nearly 3% to £31.88 as the company upgraded its outlook on annual operating performance following a ‘materially stronger’ second half recovery from the pandemic impact and said it is carrying out a strategic review of its Health business.
For the year to March 2021, Johnson Matthey said its underlying operating profit is expected to be ‘around the top end’ of the £405 million to £502 million range of expectations.
IN OTHER NEWS
Anglo American added 2.3% to £30.575 after the mining giant said it has demerged its thermal coal operations in South Africa as it seeks to move away from thermal coal and decarbonise its operations.
Used car retailer Motorpoint (MOTR) ticked up 1.5% to 263p on a solid trading update for the year to March 2021 which flagged strong online sales growth through the lockdown, with Motorpoint anticipating pent-up consumer demand ahead of the full reopening of its retail branches later this month.
Rival motor retailer Lookers (LOOK) sped 8% higher to 67.6p on news it expects pre-tax profit for 2021 to be materially ahead of market expectations after first-quarter results topped expectations on increased demand from digital channels.