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FTSE 100 accelerates by midday amid 'blue sweep' projections

Wed, 6th Jan 2021

Hopes that a Democrat 'trifecta' of control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives will lead to a more generous US stimulus package was driving share prices higher on Wednesday. By midday the FTSE 100 was up 2.5% to 6,778.56, its highest level since February 2020, amid projections that Democrats could secure the balance of power in the Senate based on two run-off elections in Georgia. US futures were mixed with technology stocks under pressure on fears a freer hand for the Biden administration could leave the big tech names vulnerable to anti-trust measures and higher taxation. High-street bakery chain Greggs estimated annual losses of up to £15 million and forecast that profit would not return to pre-COVID levels until 2022 at the earliest owing to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the fourth quarter, sales fell to £293 million from £344 million year-on-year and company-managed shop like-for-like sales averaged 81.1% of the 2019 level, the company said. Its share price was up 8.2% to £19.25. Information services and events company Informa said it expected annual performance to meet its guidance despite the pandemic-fueled disruption to its event-led businesses. The company also confirmed the appointment of John Rishton as chair, succeeding Derek Mapp, starting June 2021. Informa's share price was up 4% to 558.6p per share. Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said its diabetes drug Farxiga had been granted priority review in the US to treat chronic kidney disease in adults with and without type-2 diabetes. 'This decision brings us a step closer to delivering this new treatment option for the millions of patients living with chronic kidney disease in the US,' the company said. AstraZeneca's share price was up 1% to £75.14. Digital automotive marketplace Auto Trader said government-imposed lockdown restrictions across the UK were expected to impact volumes in January and February. In the third quarter - October to December 2020- demand for car buying had remained strong, with visits to its marketplace 20% above prior year levels, but sales volumes were expected to be impacted in January and February, the company said. Auto Trader's share price was up 0.1% to 601.4p. Software services firm Gresham Technologies said it expected to report a rise in annual adjusted earnings thanks to recurring revenue growth that beat market expectations. For the year ended 31 December 2020, adjusted EBITDA was expected to be least £4.4 million, an 7% increase on the prior year, while revenue fell 2% to £24.6 million. Gresham Technologies' share price was down 1% to 146.6p. Travis Perkins has announced that Jasmine Whitbread will replace Stuart Chambers who will step down as a director and non-executive chairman on 31 March 2021. The appointment follows a rigorous and wide ranging selection process using an external search firm. Whitbread, who is chief executive of London First, will step down from that role on 30 March 2021 and become a director and chair of Travis Perkins on 31 March 2021. She has over a decade of experience on the boards of large public companies for whom she has chaired key committees. Travis Perkins' share price was up 3.6% to £14.30. Intellectual property-based businesses investor IP Group said it had invested $4 million in its portfolio company Oxbotica, an autonomous vehicle software company, as part of a £36 million funding round led by bp ventures. Following completion of the transaction, IP Group would hold a stake of 15.0% in Oxbotica. IP Group's share price was up 6.3% to 110.8p per share. Autolus Therapeutics, a portfolio company of healthcare company Syncona, will reduce its headcount by 20% in Q1, which will deliver cost savings of around $15 million, as part of its decision to focus and prioritise the development of the AUTO1 programme. Autolus will seek partnership opportunities to fund additional clinical development plans for AUTO3, in relapsed/refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), currently in a Phase 1/2 trial, before progressing the programme into the next phase of development. Syncona's share price was down 0.7% to 267p per share. Cruise company Carnival said P&O Cruises Australia had extended its rolling pause in operations in New Zealand to departures on and before 25 April, 2021, citing the ongoing impact of pandemic-led restrictions. The company was initially scheduled to start sailing from Auckland from 6 February, 2021, while Pacific Explorer's operations that were previously paused to 4 March, 2021 and were now paused to 25 April, it added. Carnival's share price was up 3.5% to £13.33 per share. Story provided by

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