UK stocks shrugged off concerns over the country’s vaccine programme to continue their upward march so far this week.

Medicines regulator the MHRA this afternoon stated under-30s should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca (AZN) jab where possible due to concerns over the link between the vaccine and blood clots.

While this is better than an outright ban on use of the vaccine for under-30s, it could still hit the Government’s roadmap for easing lockdown considering the AstraZeneca jab makes up around three quarters of the UK’s total vaccine supplies.

Sterling fell 0.4% against the dollar and 0.7% against the euro following the news, giving a boost to the exporter-heavy FTSE 100 index, which closed 0.91% higher to 6,885.32.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 index, considered more representative of the domestic UK economy, also closed higher with a 0.76% rise to 22,160.57.

COMPANY NEWS

In company news, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) gained 1.4% to £13.74 even as it said a winter storm in Texas would wipe up to $200 million from its adjusted first-quarter earnings.

Upstream production is expected to be between 2.4 million and 2.48 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, including 10,000-to-20,000 barrels per day lower production due to the Texas winter storm.

Upstream adjusted earnings, however, are expected to be positive, ‘capturing the upside from the current commodity price environment’, Shell said.

Legal wrangling with Fox Corp over a disputed stake in FanDuel put pressure on gaming group Flutter Entertainment (FLTR), which was one of the biggest FTSE 100 losers with a 1.3% decline to £155.35.

Budget airline Ryanair (RYA) edged 0.3% higher to €16.85 despite warning that some analyst forecasts predicting it would return to profit over the next year were too optimistic, blaming the slow rollout of coronavirus vaccinations across Europe.

Ryanair said, ‘While it is not possible at this time to provide meaningful full-year 2022 profit guidance, we do not share the recent optimism of certain analysts,’ adding that it expects to break even. This compares to the €277 million profit after tax analysts are expecting, according to Bloomberg.

Food delivery platform Deliveroo (ROO) gained 2.1% to 286p after shrugging off a strike threat by its riders and drivers over pay and conditions, as restrictions on trading its shares came to an end, giving retail investors their first chance to trade.

MORE CANCELLED CRUISES

Cruise operator Carnival (CCL) rose 5.4% to £17.99 despite cancelling additional cruises and extending current suspensions of all operations from US ports through June.

Retirement services business Saga (SAGA), also a large cruise operator, jumped more than 11.4% to 388.2p despite an 84% drop in Covid-impacted profits. Investors remain hopeful of travel operations getting going again later this year and have been reassured by September’s £150 million funding call.

Pub owner Marston’s (MARS) gained 1.9% to 101.2p after it gave reopening guidance, including for around 70%, or about 700, of its managed and franchised pubs in England with outdoor spaces to reopen on or around 12 April.

Marston’s also confirmed that it had secured financial covenant waivers to its bank, private placement and securitised facilities for the financial periods up to and including 1 January 2022.

Food packing business Hilton Food (HFG) climbed 2.9% to £11.50, having hiked its dividend after reporting that annual profit that grew by quarter amid volume growth in Australia. Hilton declared a final dividend of 19p per share, bringing total dividends for 2020 to 26p, up 22% year-on-year.

Chemicals company Croda (CRDA) dipped 0.4% to £63.86 on news its fragrances and flavours subsidiary, Iberchem, had agreed to acquire Parfex, a fine fragrance business based in Grasse, France, for €45 million.

Equipment rental group Vp (VP.) traded flat at 860p after it announced that its revenues recovered to 95% of pre-Covid levels since its interim results were issued on 7 December.

Restaurant owner Tasty (TAST:AIM) recovered to trade 2.5% higher to 6.15p, having initially tumbled over 13% earlier in the day, after posting a deeper annual loss after Covid-19 restrictions almost halved sales.

Tasty’s pre-tax losses for the year through 27 December amounted to £12.6 million, compared to losses of £0.27 million year-on-year, as revenue dropped 46% to £24.2 million.

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Issue Date: 07 Apr 2021