UK stocks are in modest decline in early trade on Thursday as investors come to terms with the can being kicked down the road again on a Brexit outcome following last night’s extension to the end of October.

Many businesses may be breathing a sigh of relief at a possible side-stepping of a more draconian deal. Travel stocks are certainly leading the charge, with budget airline EasyJet (EZJ), British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) and tour operator TUI (TUI) all lodged comfortably at the top of the FTSE 100 leader board, led by EasyJet up 4.6% at £11.045.

Investors are presumably relieved at the extension to Article 50, which will take all these businesses through their crucial summer months.

In early trade the FTSE 100 is down around 15 points, or 0.2%, at 7,406.41, while the pound remains largely flat against the dollar at $1.3096 and modestly weaker versus the euro at €1.1604.

EX-DIVIDENDS WEIGH

In the absence of significant corporate news dividends are the other major driving force of the UK’s main markets with a litany of large cap s companies going ex-dividend. The list includes insurers Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) and Aviva (AV.)ITV (ITV), housebuilder Barratt Developments (BDEV) and betting firm Paddy Power Betfair (PPB), although calculations suggest the impact is to strip just eight points to the FTSE 100.

In the company news that is around, newsagent-cum-bookstore WH Smith (SMWH) has reported half year results that show headline profit before tax at £81m, down £1m on a year ago.

But once investors factor in £16m of one-off costs, the figure shows a 21% decline at £65m. Some of those exceptional items relate to the firm’s acquisition of US airport retailer InMotion.

Investors shrug-off the figures, with the share price barely moving at all, limping 2p lower to £21.36, although the stock has rallied strongly from £17 levels so far in 2019.

NEW PAGE FOR TED BAKER

There’s a new head honcho at Ted Baker (TED) after the company unveiled Lindsay Page as its new chief executive officer on Thursday, who will start immediately. Page has been the chief financial officer at the fashion chain for some time so will be up to speed with operations.

There will be plenty of Page to get his teeth into after recent fallout from the ‘hugging’ row involving founder Ray Kelvin.

Elsewhere, DIY chain Grafton (GFTU) plans to buy Polvo of the Netherlands from the privately owned Pallieter Group in ma €131m, or £112m in Sterling.

The company believes that Polvo will enhance its existing Dutch business Isero, with more than €300m in annual revenues and trade from 113 branches. Investors apparently agree, marking the shares 2% higher at 835p, valuing the business at around £2bn.

City analysts notes take their toll elsewhere with Glencore (GLEN) was knocked by a downgrade to neutral at Goldman Sachs. Hiscox (HSX) was cut to hold by Berenberg and Ocado (OCDO) has been hit by a downgrade to reduce at HSBC.

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Issue Date: 11 Apr 2019