FTSE 100 regains parity but lags European peers as pound remains strong

Wed, 24th Feb 2021

The FTSE 100 recovered some early losses to trade flat by midday at 6,631.25. It still lagged European peers though as sterling remained relatively strong against the euro and the dollar. US futures pointed to modest gains on Wall Street later after a couple of days of market volatility centred on the technology sector. High-street bank Lloyds fell 1.2% to 38.7p as it reported a 72% drop annual profit to £1.23 billion as bad debts ballooned during the Covid-19 crisis. Lloyds resumed its dividend, declaring a final payout of 0.57p per share that was nevertheless down from the previous year's final dividend of 1.12p. Challenger lender Metro Bank slumped 9% to 136.4p as it posted a deeper annual loss after it, too, racked up more credit impairments due to the pandemic. Metro Bank's pre-tax losses for the year through December amounted to £311.4 million, compared to year-on-year losses of £130.8 million. Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser was flat at £59.70, having swung to a full-year profit as sales rose and impairment charges fell, though its underlying earnings were hurt by weaker margins. The company also announced that it agreed to sell its Scholl foot-care brand to Yellow Wood Partners and would acquire the Biofreeze topical pain relief brand from Performance Health, for undisclosed sums. Reckitt Benckiser kept its annual divided steady at 174.6p per share and, for 2021, forecast modest like-for-like sales growth of flat to 2%. Plastics manufacturer Synthomer gained 1.3% to 471.2p on revealing that it was not in talks about a possible takeover bid for the company, in response to press speculation about a deal. CVC Capital Partners was exploring a possible bid for Synthomer, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Telecom group Vodafone fell 2.2% to 127p after it announced that it intended to float is Vantage Towers infrastructure business in Germany before the end of March. Vodafone already had revealed plans to spin the business off and confirmed it would list it on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, targeting 'a meaningful minority free float'. Life insurer Aviva shed 0.9% to 371.3p following news that it agreed to sell its entire 40% shareholding in a Turkey joint venture to Ageas Insurance for £122 million. Photonic components & systems maker Gooch & Housego rallied 2.1% to £12.56, having seen improved levels of demand across the industrial laser sector, led by Asia. As at 31 January, Gooch & Housego's order book stood at £95.0 million, up 1% year-on-year. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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