UK stocks gave up some of Friday’s gains as markets in Asia softened and US futures also pointed down.
At 9am the FTSE 100 index was trading down 70 points or 1% at 6,554 as government bond yields rose around the world, spurred by reflation hopes, and copper hit its highest price for nine years.
Mining stocks were the principal gainers, accompanied by a handful of banks and travel and leisure companies, while healthcare stocks and online retailers led the fallers.
Sterling held onto the $1.40 level, its highest since 2018, while Brent crude oil futures and gold gained around 0.5% each to $63.45 per barrel and $1,792 per ounce.
Veterinary drug maker Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) reported strong results for the six months to December with revenues up 21.8% to just under £300 million thanks to strong demand in the US and Europe.
However, the firm said it was ‘starting to see the post-Brexit inventory build unwind’ and therefore it expected slower second half growth. Shares eased 1.8% to £35.46.
Pub group Mitchells & Butler (MAB) published an update on trading since the end of September showing managed sales down almost 70% on the previous year and a monthly cash burn of between £30 million and £35 million since the start of January.
Given this cash squeeze, the firm has drawn all of its banking facilities and has delayed pension contributions for the whole of the first quarter until April. Last week it announced a £350 million capital raise to see it through to the end of lockdown and the reopening of the pub sector. Shares dropped 2% to 317p.
Security group G4S (GFS) tumbled 10% to 242p after suitor Gardaworld declined to raise its 235p per share bid for the UK firm, saying it would ‘not overpay for a company with systemic ESG issues that continue to come to light’.
Gardaworld claimed that integrating G4S would require ‘sizeable resources’, while addressing its issues ‘will require greater investment, and without satisfactory engagement from G4S we have been unable to complete our due diligence’.
Shares in hygiene products maker Tristel (TSTL:AIM) climbed 1.7% to 610p after company posted a 15% rise in revenues for the first half to December and raised its interim dividend by 12% to 2.62p per share.
Investors seemed unfazed by the company’s admission that sales of medical device disinfectants so far this year were below budget due to fewer patient examinations under Covid, and that it had little visibility on a return to pre-pandemic levels in the second half.
Shares in immunotherapy and diagnostics firm Avacta (AVCT) jumped 18% to 215p after the company clarified recent press talk that the UK government was about to take up the firm’s lateral-flow rapid antigen test.
Clinical data showed an ‘excellent performance of the test in identifying patients with an infectious viral load’, and the firm is progressing to full clinical validation with the aim of bringing the test to market in Europe by the end of March.
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