It was a slow start to trading in shares on Friday as rising Covid-19 cases and US-China tensions dented sentiment at the end of a week marked by largely upbeat quarterly earnings and improving economic data.

The benchmark FTSE 100 opened a fraction lower in subdued trading, nudging 0.03% lower to 6,025.37, but remains on course for its first weekly gain in three as investors bet on more stimulus to drive a post-pandemic economic rebound.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 also dipped, losing 0.2% at 17,443.47, with losses in industrial, energy and tech-related stocks offsetting gains for consumer goods, healthcare and utility firms.

Overnight, stocks in Asia took a hit as tensions escalated between China and the US after President Trump banned transactions with two popular Chinese apps, Tencent’s WeChat and ByteDance’s Tiktok.

The pound lost ground against the dollar, while Brent crude dipped and gold continued its rally above $2,000 per ounce.

NO HIK-UPS HERE

Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) topped the FTSE 100 leader board on Friday, jumping more than 9% to £23.535, after raising its annual sales forecast for two of its biggest divisions and reporting higher first-half profit.

The world’s largest inter-dealer broker, TP ICAP (TCAP), lost more than 7% at 311.9p, after it signalled a tepid start to the second half of the year.

Fund supermarket Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) reported a surge in full-year earnings as the Covid-19 pandemic fuelled record levels of share trading.

That led to a 3% increase in its final dividend to 26.3p, taking its total dividend for the year to 54.9p. Hargreaves shares rallied almost 4% to £18.94.

Asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) reversed 0.3% to 262.8p, having swung to a first-half loss after revenue slumped on the back of outflows from its funds last year.

Standard Life Aberdeen, which also wrote down the value of its assets, held its interim dividend steady at 7.3p per share, citing the strength of its balance sheet.

DISCOUNT PROPERTY LISTINGS

Property portal Rightmove (RMV) firmed 3.9% to 600.2p, despite booking a 43% slump in first-half profit and scrapping its interim dividend after the Covid-19 crisis prompted it to offer discounts to its customers.

Rightmove said traffic visits rose 5% on-year, helped by a stronger-than-expected increase since the reopening of the English property market in May. Stamp duty holidays offered by the UK government also gave grounds for cautious optimism, it added.

Life sciences investor Syncona (SYNC) shed 1.2% to 254p following news that portfolio company Freeline Therapeutics had priced an initial public offering, implying a value on the raising of around $158.8m (£120.8m).

Syncona said that following the IPO it will retain a 49% stake in Freeline, having agreed to invest $24.3m (£18.5m). Freeline was a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on gene therapy targeting the liver.

Wind farm investor Renewable Infrastructure Group (TRIG)  gained 0.2% to 137.29p on reaffirming its guidance for a higher annual dividend, despite its net asset value slipping 1.7% in the first half.

Renewable Infrastructure said it was still targeting a full-year dividend of 6.76p per share, up from 6.64p in 2019, having declared a first-half payout of 3.35p.

Bonding products manufacturer Scapa (SCPA) soared 18% to 108.4p after it forecast a full-year trading profit around 10% ahead of market expectations, having delivered first-quarter revenue 'well ahead' of its Covid-19 scenario plan.

Security and data group Newmark Security (NWT) jumped 16% to 1.42p on announcing that it had attained two new customers in the US via its Human Capital Management division, which trades there as GT Clocks.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 07 Aug 2020