FTSE 100 off to strong start in December lifted by vaccine hopes, manufacturing data

Tue, 1st Dec 2020

A mix of vaccine optimism and positive manufacturing data helped the FTSE 100 make a strong start to December, closing up 1.9% at 6,384.73. US shares were also in demand with the S&P 500 up 1.3% to 3,669.14 by 4.30pm UK time. In corporate news department store Debenhams announced it is entering liquidation after JD Sports pulled out of a deal to buy the group out of administration. JD shares were up 4.5% to 810.8p on news which had been widely trailed yesterday. High-street lender Lloyds gained 7.3% to 38.2p, having confirmed that outgoing chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio had agreed to become chairman of Credit Suisse from May next year. Horta-Osorio will step down as CEO of Lloyds on 30 April. The company had on Monday announced that he would be replaced next year by senior HSBC executive Charlie Nunn, with chief financial officer William Chalmers potentially filling in on an interim basis until Nunn takes the reins. Pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca added 0.4% to £78.35 on news that it had agreed to sell the rights to cardiovascular disease treatment Crestor in over 30 countries in Europe, except the UK and Spain, to Grunenthal for up to $350 million. Investment trust Lindsell Train dipped 0.2% after posting a 13% share price total return and a net asset value total return of 21% over the six months to 30 September 2020, with its holding in management firm Lindsell Train Limited (LTL) the biggest positive contributor to returns. Monks Investment Trust rose 1.4% to £12.84 after it posted a positive first-half performance that beat its benchmark. Monks' net asset value total return for the six months through September was 26.8%, compared to a 10.2% rise on the FTSE World Index. Pet product retailer and veterinary group Pets at Home was up 0.1% to 420p after it sold five specialist referral practices to rival Linnaeus for up to £100 million. The sum included £80 million in cash and a deferred cash consideration of £20 million, contingent on financial milestones being met in the future. Linnaeus is a UK subsidiary of US giant Mars Petcare. Building materials company Grafton firmed 6% to 902.5p following news that it acquired AVC, a UK manufacturer of bespoke wooden staircases trading as StairBox, for £44 million. Food and drink ingredients supplier Tate & Lyle climbed 2.7% to 655p as it acquired stevia business Sweet Green Fields, for an undisclosed sum. Sweet Green Fields revenue for the year ending 31 December was expected to be around $50 million. Mining engineering group Weir gained 1.9% to £17.07 despite having won a £95 million order to provide aftermarket components and services to the Iron Bridge magnetite project in Western Australia. Ground engineering contractor Van Elle dropped 9% to 42.3p after it forecast a 22% drop in first-half revenue as lockdowns triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic bit hard in the first quarter. Flooring retailer Topps Tiles gained 0.7% to 56.4p as it swung to a full-year loss and scrapped its final dividend after sales slipped due to pandemic-related store closures and it wrote down its budding commercial tiles business. On a more positive note, Topps Tiles said like-for-like sales had bounced back by 16.5% in the fourth quarter, and by 19.6% in the first eight weeks of the new financial year. Online women's fashion retailer Sosandar reversed earlier gains to trade 5.7% to 18.6p despite narrowing its first-half losses after it boosted its sales by 52%. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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