UK stocks fell into negative territory at lunchtime on Monday as increasing virus cases offset hopes of economic recovery on a quiet day with US markets closed for Martin Luther King day, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

China reported better than expected growth of 6.5% year-on-year in the fourth quarter.

At 12pm the FTSE 100 was 0.25% lower at 6,710 points, while the FTSE 250 was unchanged at 20,620.


In corporate news, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) gained 0.7% to £76.40 after its Enhertu drug was approved in the US for the treatment of patients with metastatic gastric cancer.

British gas parent company Centrica (CAN) cheapened 2.1% to 49.5p after announcing the departure of chief financial officer Johnathan Ford for personal reasons.

Ford is being replaced by Kate Ringrose, who has had been with Centrica for 16 years, most recently as its financial controller.


Telecoms and connectivity testing kit manufacturer Spirent Communications (SPT) sparked up 1.5% to 266.5p as annual revenue rose 4% to $522 million, helping the company to achieve a ‘strong’ rise in earnings in line with its expectations.

Spirent also said it may return excess cash to shareholders but warned that an ongoing Covid-19 impact on customer spending patterns meant growth in 2021 was expected to be second half weighted.

Animal genetics company Genus (GNS) rose 5.1% to an all-time high of £45.32 as management guided profits growth expectations for the year to June 2021 higher, drawing confidence from continued strong trading through the first half.

Sausage skins maker Devro (DVO) fattened up 2% to 158.5p on news annual underlying operating profit is expected to come in around the upper end of the £38 million-to-£40.5 million range of analyst expectations following strong trading in the final months of 2020.

‘Trading in the final months of 2020 was slightly ahead of management’s expectations, driven by higher volumes and margins,’ explained the Scotland-based company.

Colour cosmetics supplier Warpaint London (W7L:AIM) rallied 10% to 92.5p on the news full-year results will beat previous guidance, thanks to strong trading in the second half of 2020, and that its W7 cosmetics range will be stocked in even more Tesco (TSCO) stores.

Wealth manager AFH Financial (AFHP:AIM) added 1.5% to 396p despite reporting a seventh successive rise in annual profit, boosted by increased revenue and funds under management and holding the dividend steady at 6p per share.


Alternative fuel group Velocys (VLS:AIM) tumbled 27% to 7.5p on announcing that Shell has withdrawn from a joint venture formed to develop sustainable aviation fuel.

Velocys said it would continue to work with British Airways, the other partner in the Altalto joint venture, to secure finance for the Altalto Immingham plant.

Financial product and services company CPP (CPP:AIM) surged 54% to 505p after it upgraded its core earnings guidance following a stronger-than-expected recovery in India.

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Issue Date: 18 Jan 2021