UK shares tracked declines on Asian stock markets in early trade on Thursday as the lack of new stimulus measures by the US Federal Reserve left investors disappointed ahead of a Bank of England policy meeting.

The benchmark FTSE 100 and the mid-cap FTSE 250 were both sharply lower in opening deals with banks, miners and automakers leading the declines.

The FTSE 100 was off by around 0.89% early on at 6,027.34, while the FTSE 250 fell 0.7% to 17,677.61.

Attention remains firmly fixed on a Bank of England meeting later today, where the central bank is expected to signal yet more stimulus as the economy heads for a jump in unemployment and a possible Brexit shock. That will likely occupy investors’ thoughts on a fairly slow day for corporate news.

Oil prices fell, after rising in the two previous sessions, as concerns about weak fuel demand re-emerged after production platforms in the south-eastern US took steps to resume output following Hurricane Sally's passage.

LOCKDOWN HURTS PLAYTECH

In company news, gambling software maker Playtech (PTEC) crashed 7% to 362.85p after it posted a lower first-half profit on Thursday, hit by betting shop closures and sports events cancellations due to coronavirus-led curbs.

British clothing retailer Next (NXT) was among the leading blue-chip winners, up 2% to £63 after it raised its profit outlook for the second time in two months as it reported strong recent trading.

Online trading platform IG Group (IGG) reported a surge in first-quarter revenue as the coronavirus crisis and fears of its impact on the global economy continued to drive up volatility and trading volumes on financial markets.

IG shares rallied nearly 7% to 844.5p, heading the mid-caps leader board.

The adverse events that led to a pause in trials evaluating AstraZeneca’s (AZN) Covid-19 vaccine candidate may not have been associated with the vaccine itself, according to a document outlining participant information that was posted online by the Oxford University.

Security company G4S (G4S) completed the sale of its conventional cash businesses in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for around £49 million. The sale was completed on 14 September, and the company said it had received approximately 83% of the proceeds.

G4S shares were up slightly by 0.7% to 184.8p on Thursday.

Wealth manager Brooks Macdonald (BRK) reported that annual profit rose by more than a quarter on higher margins and increased funds under management.

For the year ended 30 June 2020, pre-tax profit rose 26.6% to £10 million as revenue increased 2.7% to a record £108.6 million.

Shares were down 1.3% to £17.52 in early trading.

MARKET WRAP

Residential property business Grainger (GRI) said Ealing Council had approved a plan to develop new homes for rent in Southall, London.

The scheme, by Connected Living London - the formal partnership between Grainger and Transport for London - will deliver 460 new homes, including 40% affordable housing, across five buildings.

Despite this, shares were down 1% to 312.6p in early trading.

Biotech company Oxford Biomedica (OXB) increased its revenue in the first half of 2020 by 6%, it announced this morning.

Bioprocessing and commercial development were particularly strong, posting revenues of £23.4 million, up by 24%. The company's shares were up by 1.4% to 847p.

Food packing business Hilton Food (HFG) upped its dividend after reporting that profit increased by more than a fifth in the first half of its fiscal year, led by increased revenue on higher volume growth.

Hilton shares moved slightly higher by 0.3% this morning to £12.02.

Biotechnology company Destiny Pharma (DEST:AIM) reported wider losses on higher costs in the first half of the year. For the half-year ended 30 June 2020, pre-tax losses widened to £2.9 million from £2.4 million on-year.

Despite the losses, the company's shares were up by 5.17% in early trading to 61p.

Testing group Intertek (ITRK) will trade without entitlement to its latest dividend on Thursday, trimming 0.2 points off the FTSE 100, according to Reuters calculations.

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Issue Date: 17 Sep 2020