The UK market got off to a slow start heading into the weekend with the FTSE 100 index drifting off 11 points to 6,606 following a weak session on Wall Street overnight and a drop in oil prices.

Energy, financial and healthcare stocks were the main losers while mining and travel-related stocks were in favour.

Brent crude futures fell 0.8% to $63 per barrel, sending shares in BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) lower, while gold traded sideways at $1,774 per ounce.

Meanwhile, all eyes were on sterling which almost hit $1.40, its highest level since May 2018. Strength in the pound is already starting to create headwinds for firms with big foreign revenue streams.

COMPANY NEWS

High street bank NatWest Group (NWG), at one stage the biggest loser on the FTSE, reversed its early losses to rise 0.3% to 172p despite posting an annual loss of £753 million for the year to December and issuing a cautious 2021 outlook.

Income from the bank’s retail and commercial business was down 10% last year due to lower consumer spending and business activity while cash balances continued to rise, crimping the bank’s net interest margin by 28 basis points (0.28%) to 1.71% (1.66% in the fourth quarter).

Real estate investment trust Segro (SGRO) climbed 1.8% to 980p after the company posted a 10.8% increase in pre-tax profits and a 16.3% increase in net asset value (NAV) for the year to December.

The firm said it had benefitted from increased demand for warehouse space and prime industrial properties during the pandemic.

Rival commercial property company Urban Logistics (SHED:AIM) announced it had acquired six UK sites to deliver ‘last mile’ services for a total of £27.8 million, equivalent to a net yield of 6.87%. Shares added 0.3% to 148p.

Music and audio products supplier Focusrite (TUNE:AIM) gained 6.2% to £10.40 after it posted a positive trading update, increasing its forecast for full year revenues to ‘in excess of £90 million’.

The firm said revenue, profits and cash were all ‘ahead of where the board would expect at this stage’ and therefore it was likely to beat market forecasts for the full year to August.

Shares in specialist software firm IDOX (IDOX) jumped 16% to 71.4p after the company revealed it had received three non-binding cash offers from cloud software firm Dye & Dunham, the latest at 75p per share.

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Issue Date: 19 Feb 2021