UK stocks trade higher on Thursday, pushing to their best level in a month with the FTSE 100 index up 0.3% to 7,390 thanks to strength in construction, industrial and technology stocks.

Best performer in the FTSE is plumbing supplies company Ferguson (FERG), up 6% to £56.34 after it emerges that US activist investor Nelson Peltz has taken a 6% stake in the firm.

Peltz’s stake, valued at £736m, reflects his belief that Ferguson is ‘an attractive business that trades at a discount to comparable US peers’ and that he can work with management ‘to explore and implement initiatives (to) create long-term shareholder value’.

Also up 6%, to 364p, is packaging firm DS Smith (SMDS) after it reports a solid performance for the last financial year and raises its medium-term operating target.

Turnover in the 12 months to 30 April rose by 12% to £6.17bn while operating profits rose by 28% to £631m. With the operating margin already at 10.2%, the company has today raised its medium-term target from 8% to 10% to 10% to 12%.

Shares in rival packaging firms Smurfit Kappa (SKG) and Mondi (MNDI) gain 6% and 2% respectively as positive sentiment spreads across the sector.

Supermarket group Wm Morrison (MRW) gains 1.5% to 198p after it announces it is expanding its same-day online grocery home delivery service with Amazon.

‘Morrisons at Amazon’ is currently available to Amazon Prime customers in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and parts of London. As well as rolling the service out to other cities including Newcastle and Glasgow, Morrison will become a retailer on Amazon’s Prime Now append website and will be able to sell directly to Amazon customers.

Meanwhile shares in rival supermarket firm Tesco (TSCO) gain 1% to 230p after first quarter sales match market expectations thanks to broad-based growth across all formats, with only the Central European business reporting negative like-for-like turnover.

Enthusiasm is muted however ahead of a tough second-quarter comparison due to the poor summer weather and the absence of major sporting events this year.

Lagging badly today are shares in Majestic Wine (WINE), down 8% to 293p as the firm issues a confusing full year update showing sales up but operating profits down by a third as it continues to pour money into its Naked brand.

Shares had rallied hard yesterday on news that Elliott Advisors, a US activist fund, had joined the running to bid for Majestic's  estate of 200 shops.

Also performing poorly are shares in Card Factory (CARD), down 6% to 179p on higher than average volume and no ostensible news.

The stock was a favourite of manager Neil Woodford, who used to owned just under 9% of the company but has recently cut his stake to less than 5% according to a recent filing.

Disclaimer: the author owns shares in DS Smith


Issue Date: 13 Jun 2019