UK stocks fell on Friday as investors and the British public were faced with a prolonged lockdown as it continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, and mounting debts.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was far too early to speculate when current restrictions could be removed and confirmed that the government considered closing its borders to prevent new strains of the virus entering the UK.

Also impacting sentiment was weak December retail sales growth and worsening debt. UK retail sales growth came in at 0.3% compared with economist expectations of 1.4%. Public finances were also worse than expected, with public sector net borrowing taking national debt above £2 trillion for the first time.

The pound fell 0.3% against the US dollar at $1.37.

In Asian trading Japan’s Nikkei 225 and China’s SE Composite dropped 0.4%. Oil prices were weak with Brent Crude losing 1.5% to $55.3 a barrel while Gold prices dropped 0.4% to $1,862 an ounce.

At 08:50, the FTSE 100 of leading shares was down 0.6% at 6,680.

IT STRENGTH

In a pre-closing trading update IT reseller Computacenter (CCC) upped its guidance saying adjusted pre-tax profit for the year was now expected to be in excess of £195 million.

The group had adjusted net funds excluding lease liabilities of around £188 million. The shares gained 2% to £25.

Also increasing guidance on Friday was IT provider Kainos (KNOS) which said it expected full-year result to 31 March 2022 to be ahead of current market expectations.

The company lifted its outlook amid ongoing momentum and said its robust pipeline, strong balance sheet and significant contracted backlog underpinned confidence the outlook. The shares raced 18% higher to £13.4.

GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) ViiV Healthcare, the global HIV specialist announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Cabenuva, the first and only complete long-acting regimen for the treatment of HIV-1 infection in adults.

ViiV Healthcare is the global specialist HIV company that Glaxo majority owns with Pfizer and Shionogi.

The FDA's approval of Cabenuva is based on the pivotal phase III ATLAS (Antiretroviral Therapy as Long-Acting Suppression) and FLAIR (First Long-Acting Injectable Regimen) studies that included more than 1,100 patients from 16 countries. The shares added 0.4% to £13.7.

Healthcare services company Mediclinic International (MDC) has reported a 2.5% rise in group revenue in the third quarter, due to ‘unseasonably high’ demand for inpatient services in Southern Africa and UAE in December.

The company said it remained ‘cautious’ on near-term operating performance as the pandemic reduced visibility on activity levels.

The shares dropped 3% to 290p.

SMALLER COMPANY WRAP

Fund manager Ninety-One (N91) reported an 8% rise in its assets under management in the third quarter to 31 December 2020 to £128.6 billion. The shares added 0.8% to £48.3.

Private equity investor Pantheon International (PIN) said its private equity assets stood at £1.6 billion at the end of December, while net available cash balances were £146 million. Net asset value (NAV) per share fell 1.5% to £30.91 in December. The shares gained 0.4% to £24.7.

Shares in clinical stage drug development company Evgen Pharma (EVG:AIM) shot up 11.7% to 12.9p after preclinical data showed its lead cancer drug candidate SFX-01 was an inhibitor of SHP2, a protein associated with a number of different cancer types.

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Issue Date: 22 Jan 2021