UK started Wednesday’s trading session on the front foot as a weaker pound lifted shares of exporters, although growing political wrangling over new Covid-19-related restrictions and uncertainty over a Brexit trade deal capped gains.

The benchmark FTSE 100 rose 0.4% to 5,995.04, led by shares of Just Eat Takeaway (JET) and Bunzl (BNZL). Aero-engineer Rolls Royce (RR.) and the usual mix of travel and leisure stocks topped the fallers list, with Rolls off more than 4% at 175.08p.

The FTSE 250 index was also up, adding 0.35% to 17,953.80.

Gold struggled to gain traction on Wednesday and was stuck below the key $1,900 per ounce psychological level, as lack of an agreement on additional US fiscal stimulus helped the dollar stay firm.

Oil prices slipped as concerns that fuel demand will continue to falter as rising coronavirus cases across Europe and in the US, the world's biggest oil consumer, could impede economic growth.

STOCKS ON THE MOVE

UK and Europe-listed food-ordering firm Just Eat Takeaway on Wednesday said it had received 46% more orders in the third quarter than a year earlier, as a surge in online orders due to coronavirus social distancing measures continued.

Order growth accelerated from an increase of 32% in the first half of 2020, with orders up 47% in Germany and 43% in the UK. Restaurants in the Netherlands delivered a third more meals through the company's platform.

Just Eat shares topped the FTSE 100 leader board, jumping 5.6% to £93.37.

Distribution business Bunzl was also firmly higher, up 5.5% at £26.935, after telling the market that strong sales of Covid-19 related products had more than offset the impact of weak economic activity on its business in the year to date.

Revenue in the second half of the year is expected to grow ‘strongly’ while second-half operating profit margin should be ‘slightly higher’ than last year.

British online fashion retailer ASOS (ASC:AIM) reported a massive jump in full-year profit, benefiting from strong demand during the Covid-19 pandemic and forecast more improvement in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

ASOS, whose fast fashions are popular with younger adult shoppers, made a pre-tax profit of £142.1 million in the year to 31 August. While that was in line with guidance in August and up on the previous year’s £33.1 million, investors are clearly harbouring concerns about how retail will hold up as lockdown restrictions increase, sending the shares plunging more than 8% to 443p.

PENT-UP HOUSING DEMAND

Housebuilder Barratt Developments (BDEV) reported a near 17% jump in forward sales value, benefiting from strong pent-up demand for its homes following the end of a coronavirus-led lockdown.

The company, which builds homes in England, Scotland and Wales, said total forward sales as at 11 October rose 16.7% to 15,135 homes and at a value of £3.65 billion.

Barratt shares moved close to 2% higher to 552.9p.

Global recruitment firm PageGroup (PAGE) reported a 31.9% fall in third-quarter profit on Wednesday as companies refrained from hiring new employees during the ongoing health crisis, while adding that markets in Mainland China and Japan were either flat or returning to growth.

Gross profit in the quarter ending Sept. 30 was £143.5 million compared with £216.8 million a year earlier. The shares were about 0.5% off at 409.4p.

Education group Pearson (PSON) drifted more than 1% lower to 562.8p after saying it was on course to match market expectations, as demand for online learning helped soften the impact from cancelled tests and closed schools due to Covid-19.

G4S (GFS) on Wednesday said profit for the nine months ended 30 September was ahead of last year, helped by a tight check on costs even as the British security firm’s revenue slipped 2% during the period.

The London-listed company, which has been fending off a hostile takeover bid from Canada's GardaWorld, said it has retained and won contracts with an annual revenue contract value of £2 billion in the nine months to 30 September.

G4S shares nudged 0.3% higher to 210.2p.

MOVERS ELSEWHERE ON THE MARKET

Digital transformation business and running Shares top idea for 2020 Kainos (KNOS) soared more than 25% to £12.87 after issuing another strong trading update. The company said ongoing customer demand remained high and had resulted in a ‘very strong trading performance’ between 1 April to date, driven by the structural shift of digital adoption.

The company said its digital services customers continued to ‘prioritise digital transformation programmes in the NHS and public sector.’ Its Workday practice continued to ‘benefit from its international scale and an ability to secure new consulting contracts across all our geographies,’ it added.

Shares flagged Kainos for a good 2020 at 718p in December 2019.

Chemicals company Synthomer (SYNT) soared 26% to 419.2p, having upgraded its annual earnings guidance and reinstated its dividend after demand for its latex products spiked during the Covid-19 crisis.

Synthomer's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the year through December were now expected at around £232 million, some 10% higher than previous guidance.

Emerging markets-focused money manager Ashmore (ASHM) rallied 7% to 388.9p after telling investors that its assets under management rose 2.3% to $85.5 billion (£66 billion approx..) during the first quarter.

The firm said it recorded a positive investment performance of $2.7 billion and net outflows of $800 million over the period.

Angling Direct (ANG:AIM) plunged 8% to 63p despite reporting a profit surge in its first half as the fishing tackle retailer highlighted ‘considerable resilience’ in its trading performance for the period.

For the six months ended July 31, 2020, the company posted a pre-tax profit of £1.4 million, up from £0.4 million in the prior year, while revenues jumped 21% to £32.1 million. Eastern

European focused drinks maker Stock Spirits (STCK) advanced 4.7% to 235.5p on announcing that annual trading was ahead of its expectations, with volumes up in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Surveillance systems group Petards (PEG:AIM) jumped 13% to 7.35p after it won a contract worth more than £1.3 million from Porterbrook Maintenance for the supply of systems in trains.

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

Issue Date: 14 Oct 2020