UK stocks pushed unconvincingly into positive territory at lunch time on Thursday while European bourses remained in the red.
With Brexit negotiations front and centre, France warned that it could use its veto vote to block a deal if it doesn’t like the terms, heaping more pressure on the talks as they approach their climax.
At 12:00 the FTSE 100 was a smidge higher at 6,471 points.
Supermarket group Sainsburys (SBRY) was one of the best performers, adding 2.9% to 216p after it joined rival Tesco (TSCO) in forgoing business rate relief on its stores granted by the chancellor since March.
The firm said its decision to pass up around £450 million of relief was prompted by the fact sales and profits were ‘stronger than originally expected, particularly since the start of the second national lockdown in England’.
Shares in bus and rail operator Go-Ahead (GOG) accelerated 4.4% to 896.6p after it reported a better than expected performance from its London and International bus division in a trading update for the five months to the start of December.
The firm said expectations for the division are now ‘ahead of previous guidance’ although regional bus services continue to be impacted by lockdowns with passenger numbers more than 50% below pre-pandemic levels.
Countryside Properties (CSP) announced plans to separate its housebuilding business amid limited growth opportunities following increased focus on growing its regeneration business.
Shares were up 3.2% to 455p.
Fellow housebuilder MJ Gleeson (GLE) was up 12.8% to 787.2p as it guided for performance ahead of expectations ahead of its AGM.
Educational technology firm RM (RM.) gained 14% to 234.9p as it said it would beat expectations for the year to 30 November.
Assets rose 34% to £20.2 billion driven by net inflows of £3.5 billion and investment gains of £1.6 billion, driving a 19% increase in revenues and a 29% increase in operating profits. The firm saw further inflows of £1.9 billion in the first two months of its current financial year. The shares added 1.2% to 617.5p.
Logistics and e-fulfilment firm Clipper (CLG) raised its full year guidance after better than expected trading in the first half to the end of October and record volumes for some of its sites over the Black Friday weekend.
Turnover for the period rose almost 20% to £305 million, driven by 37.7% growth in e-fulfilment and returns revenues, leading to a 21.7% rise in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to £20.2 million. The shares rallied 3.1% to 505p.
Fire and safety services firm Marlowe (MRL:AIM) posted a 7% rise in revenues from continued operations in the half-year to the end of September and said Covid was ‘no longer having a material impact on the business’. The shares nudged 1.1% higher to 576p.