UK stocks were lower at the open in line with global markets on rising geopolitical concerns following a US air strike which killed a top Iranian general.
The FTSE 100 index of leading stocks was down 0.4% to 7,575 while the FTSE 250 index of mid-cap stocks was down 0.3% at 22030. Almost every sector was in the red except the energy sector.
Oil prices surged after the US attack with Brent crude up 3% to $68.40, the biggest jump since Iran attacked Saudi production facilities in September 2019. Shares in BP (BP.) gained 1.1% to 486p while shares in Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) gained 1.2% to £22.85.
Clothing retailer Next (NXT) gained 0.7% to £70.11 after the company’s latest trading update. Full-price sales including interest income rose by 5.2% in the two months to 28 Dec, 1.1% ahead of the company’s internal forecast.
Sales were helped by cold weather in November and better stock availability in-store and online. As a result, full year profit guidance has been nudged up by £2m to £727m.
Low-cost airline Ryanair (RYA) also reported a strong end to the year with like for like passenger numbers up 9% to 11.2m in December. The firm’s Lauda Air unit showed a particularly strong increase in passenger numbers, up 67% to 500,000 in December. However with travel stocks trading lower after the spike in crude prices Ryanair shares traded down 1.6% to €14.67.
Tobacco firms British American Tobacco (BATS) and Imperial Brands (IMB) were marginally higher after they responded to the US Food & Drug Administration’s decision to ban the sale of all flavoured e-cigarette cartridges with the exception of tobacco and menthol.
BAT shares added 0.2% to £32.72 while Imperial shares added 0.8% to £18.90.
New shares in house-builders Bovis (BVS) and Galliford Try (GFRD) begin trading today after the firms completed their merger. Bill Hocking, formerly head of Galliford’s construction and investments division, was confirmed as the new firm’s overall chief executive.