UK stocks drifted lower on Friday lunchtime as investors took profits after gains four straight days of gains propelling the FTSE 100 up 5% over the week.
Meanwhile in the US Joe Biden's Democrats were just six Electoral College seats short of outright victory. Investors await the US monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report for October later with expectations of around 600,000 new jobs being created, fewer than reported in the prior month.
The FTSE 100 index traded down 0.3% to 5,890 points with gains in financial stocks offset by weakness in consumer companies.
After yesterday’s excitement in insurer RSA (RSA) when the company revealed it had been approached by a consortium of investors with a cash bid of 685p per share, pushing the shares up 45% to 670p in after-hours trading, investors seemed more circumspect on Friday with the shares falling 2.6% to 652.8p.
Meanwhile fellow insurer Beazley (BEZ) posted an upbeat AGM statement with gross written premiums for the nine months to September up 16% to £2.53 billion thanks largely to a 14% hike in renewal prices. Shares added 1.6% to 310p.
Premier Foods (PFD) announced it had sold its stake in bread-maker Hovis to private equity firm Endless in a £37 million deal, which it said would strengthen the group's financial position as it continues to improve its leverage profile. Shares rose 1.9% to 105.6p.
Alongside its joint venture partner, the Gores Group, the group has held a 49% minority interest in Hovis since April 2014. Under Gores and Premier Foods' ownership, Hovis has undergone major supply chain restructuring.
Shares in budget airline EasyJet (EZJ) dropped almost 5% to 520.6p after it said it expected to fly no more than 20% of planned capacity for the fiscal first quarter of 2021 following lockdowns in England, Germany, and France.
The company also said it would sell and leaseback a further eleven aircraft with two counterparties, generating proceeds of $169.5 million, or approximately £130.7 million.
Engineering and industrial software Aveva (AVV) said it would launch a rights issue to raise gross proceeds of approximately £2.835 billion to partly fund the acquisition of OSIsoft, a global leader in real-time industrial data software and services. Shares fell 2.6% to £40.5.
Shares in drug maker AstraZeneca (AZN) dipped 0.8%% to £84.6 despite news that its Brilinta drug was approved in the US to reduce the risk of stroke or death in patients with acute ischemic stroke or high-risk transient ischaemic attack.
The approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was based on positive results from the THALES Phase III trial that showed aspirin plus Brilinta 90mg significantly reduced the rate of the composite of stroke and death compared to aspirin alone in patients with acute ischaemic stroke or transient ischaemic attack.
The terms of the transaction were not disclosed and closing of the transaction was conditional on customary anti-trust and regulatory approvals, the company said. Shares added 2.8% to 299p.