UK markets got off to a strong start to the new trading week as the FTSE 100 advanced almost 70 points, around 1%, in early deals to 6,657.14, taking its cue from Asia, which enjoyed a buoyant opening session.

Stimulus and vaccine roll-out optimism provided international markets with the early shot in the arm. Japan provided much of the fuel, with the Nikkei 225 broke through the 30,000 point level for the first time since 1990. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng also closed higher.

Britain's index ended last week ahead but remains below its January peaks by some distance, unlike shares in many other countries, as global investors remain wary of Brexit and uncertainties about sterling's move.

On Friday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite again hit record highs, fired by tailwinds of a significant stimulus package looking increasingly likely, a strong earnings reporting season and an accelerated vaccine rollout programme each stoking generally positive sentiment.

The Bitcoin closed in on $50,000 levels as it continued reach new highs in first quarter of 2021 after the cryptocurrency hit more than $49,700 for the first time in history on Sunday.

COMPANIES TO WATCH

Resources and banks will be in sharp focus this week with major mining groups such as BHP (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Glencore (GLEN) due to report results. Barclays (BARC) – leading the FTSE 100 leaderboard with a 4% jump to 153p – will kick-off the UK banking reporting season on Thursday with NatWest (NWG) following on Friday.

Among the risers on Monday are oil majors Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and BP (BP.), which both advanced 2.5% to £13.332 and 267.45p respectively, after a sharp spike in the crude oil price over the weekend amid heightened tensions on the Arabian peninsula.

Vaccine bounce-back stocks TUI (TUI), the travel group, and picture house chain Cineworld (CINE) jumped 5% and 6%, to 335p and 79.42p respectively, as bargain-hunters used the benign market conditions to top up on the two potential post-lockdown winners.

CASH CALL FOR PUBS CHAIN

Pubs group Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) climbed 1% to 332.5p despite announcing that it would be tapping shareholders for new funds in an up to £350 million deeply-discounted share offer to help it weather the pandemic.

The new shares would be offered at 210p each, a 36% discount to the company’s closing price on Friday. Mitchells & Butlers also agreed to a £150 million credit facility and debt covenant waivers with its banks, conditional on the equity raising being completed.

Aircraft engineer Rolls-Royce (RR.) advanced 1.3% to 94.1p following news that it had appointed Panos Kakoullis as its new chief financial officer, to replace Stephen Daintith.

Telecom giant Vodafone (VOD) added 0.4% to 134.47p, having reaffirmed annual guidance for its Vantage Towers infrastructure business, which it is planning to spin off later this year.

The unit’s underlying pro-forma earnings the 2021 financial year were still expected at between €520 million and €530 million, on revenue of €955 million to €970 million.

Fund management services provider JTC (JTC) rose 0.9% to 647.99p after it acquired alternative investment focused Indos for up to £12.5 million.

ACQUISITION PUSH

Consumer goods group UP Global Sourcing (UPGS) shed 0.4% to 143.5p on news that it had acquired German kitchen electrical brand Petra, for an undisclosed sum.

The company said that it planned to relaunch and refresh the Petra brand. The company was founded in 1968 in Bavaria and originally specialised in coffee machines.

Marketing and media consultancy Ebiquity (EBQ) jumped 8% to 20.7p, having guided for a ‘small’ annual loss after returning to profit in the second half.

Respiratory drug focused Synairgen (SNG:AIM) firmed 4% to 195.49p as it kicked off dosing for a sub-study investigating an inhaled treatment for mild-to-moderate Covid-19 symptoms, for patients not yet requiring hospitalisation.

The new study was in addition to an ongoing study assessing the efficacy of inhaled interferon beta in hospitalised patients with Covid-19.

Immunodiagnostics group Oncimmune (ONC:AIM) gained 2.7% to 177.08p after it posted a narrower first-half loss, on the back of higher revenue and lower R&D spending.

Kakoullis had spent most of his career at Deloitte, where he was, until May 2019, global head of its audit and assurance practice.

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Issue Date: 15 Feb 2021