The FTSE 100 made modest declines in early trading on Thursday in what is likely be a quiet-ish day with markets across the pond closing for the Thanksgiving holiday.

At 9am, the benchmark FTSE 100 had slipped around 0.2% to was 6,376.64, led by falls for banks, construction and oil stocks, with tobacco firm Imperial Brands (IMB), Lloyds (LLOY) and house builder Persimmon (PSN) topping the FTSE loser board.

Going the other way, distribution business DCC (DCC) and bookie Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) headed the lead blue-chip risers with 3% to 4% gains.

FTSE risers and fallers at 9am

Mid-caps were also on the back foot, the FTSE 250 falling 0.4% to 19,481.75, as Virgin Money continued to see heavy selling after yesterday’s £501 million bad debt write-down.

NASDAQ LEADS US ON THANKSGIVING EVE

Overnight, it appeared that investors and Wall Street traders were cashing out after the recent coronavirus vaccine positivity, ahead of the public holiday.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrials Average finished Wednesday down 173 points or 0.6% at 29,872. The broader S&P 500 closed at 3,629, down 0.16%, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closed nearly 0.5% up at an all-time 12,094 high.

In Asia on Thursday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed up 240 points, or 0.9%, trading at 26,537, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng moved 0.2% ahead to 26,731.

The Shanghai Composite was down a sliver at 3,360.

The pound nudged up against the dollar at $1.3393, gold rose 0.2% to $1,810 per ounce, while Brent crude added 1.9% to $48.78 per barrel.

Virtual currency-cum-asset Bitcoin fell 5% to %17,959.

COMPANY NEWS

Pub operators came under intense pressure on Thursday as the toll of UK-wide lockdowns sparked a swathe of new jobs cuts. Mitchells & Butler (MAB) has had to axe 1,300 staff after being forced on the defensive.

The company, which plunged £123 million into the red last year and is currently burning through around £35 million to £40 million of cash every month, has just £225 million of cash on the books. It needs £50 million a quarter for repayments on its £2.1 billion net debt, including property leases.

Shares in the company fell 1% to 221p.

175-year old Fuller, Smith & Turner (FSTA) also swung to a loss in the first half of the year as revenue plunged after the pub group was forced to shutter its doors as the country went into lockdown to curb Covid-19.

For the 26 weeks to 26 September 2020, pre-tax losses were £23 million year-on-year, compared with a profit of £14.2 million a year ago, with revenue down from £167.1 million to £45.6 million,

INSURER CUTS DIVIDEND

Insurer Aviva (AV.) lost 1% to 324.31p after cutting its dividend by almost a third in an effort to pay down debt.

It declared a 7p per share interim dividend and a final dividend of 14p per share, taking the total dividend for the year to 21p per share for the year, down from 30p a share a year earlier.

Water utility Severn Trent (SVT) rose 0.7% to £24.74 despite announcing lower revenue and earnings in the first half of the year, with group turnover of £887.6 million, down 2.5% as a result of Covid-19.

The company said the Ofwat regulatory model will allow it to recover shortfalls in this year's allowed wholesale revenue in 2022/23.

Heat treatment company Bodycote (BOY) reported that revenue fell by fifth in the four months through October versus the same period last year, though there were signs that a recovery was underway following a virus-led hit to its business earlier this year.

For the four-month period to 31 October, revenue fell 20% to £193.6 million year-on-year, though represented a recovery from the 28% decline in constant currency revenues in the second quarter when the Covid-19 related downturn was at its peak, the company said.

Revenue for the 10 months to 31 October 2020 was £500.3 million, 18% down on last year.

ELSEWHERE ON THE MARKET

Power utility SSE (SSE) nudged 0.2% lower to £13.83 on the announcement that SSE Renewables, with its 50:50 joint venture partner Equinor, has reached financial close on the first two phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm, which will be the world's biggest wind farm when all three phases are completed in March 2026.

Britvic (BVIC) gained 2% to 826p after the soft drinks maker reported a slight rise in annual profit, but cut its dividend, declaring a full-year payout of 21.6p a share, down from 30p a share from last year.

Renewables investor JLEN Environmental Assets (JLEN) reported a fall in first-half profit as income was held back by a loss on investments as a decline in electricity and gas prices forecasts weighed.

For the half year to 30 September 2020, pre-tax profit fell to £10.7 million from £16.2 million year-on-year as operating income fell to £13.9 million from £19.3 million.

Net asset value per share was 96.1p, down from 97.5p, primarily driven by ‘the effect of the reduction in long-term electricity and gas price forecasts’, the company said.

The portfolio valuation as at 30 September 2020 was £552.9 million, up from £537.1 million last year. The stock stayed largely flat at 115.88p.

Footwear retailer Shoe Zone (SHOE:AIM) plunged 12% to 55p after admitting that the latest UK lockdown will ‘materially’ hit performance for the year ahead.

The company said that the second lockdown in England ‘at a critical time of year’ will result in an anticipated reduction in revenue of at least £12 million in this financial year to October 2021 versus the previous 12 months, ‘even allowing for the good gains in online trade’.

Cleaning technology company Xero Technology (XSG:AIM) saw its stock soar at first glance on Thursday, although this merely reflect the recently announced 100-for-1 share consolidation.

The newly merged stock is trading at 217.5p.

In The US overnight, Slack Technologies jumped 22% on reports it had talks with Salesforce over a possible sale, while family entertainment giant Walt Disney announced plans to lay-off 32,000 workers, primarily at its theme parks, as it grapples with mass closures of parts of its business, up from September’s 28,000 lay-off plan.

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Issue Date: 26 Nov 2020