FTSE finishes higher as Chinese factory data stokes recovery hopes

Tue, 31st Mar 2020

UK stocks closed in positive territory on Tuesday following a recovery in oil prices and after positive Chinese factory data stoked hopes the world's second-biggest economy was recovering from the Covid-19 crisis, though investors remained on edge as the disease continued to spread elsewhere. At 16.35, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 100.1 points, a gain of 1.8%, at 5,663.82. China's manufacturing purchasing managers index jumped to 52.0 in March, up from 35.7 in February. LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Royal Dutch Shell rose 5.8% to £14.02, even as it warned of impairment charges in the range of $400m-to-$800m in the first quarter following a slump in oil prices, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Engineering company Smiths improved 7.9% to £12.04, having delayed a demerger of its medical division indefinitely until markets stabilized. Smiths also ruled out paying an interim dividend. Tobacco giant Imperial Brands puffed 10.7% higher to £14.75 after it secured a new €3.5bn credit facility and said it had experienced no material impact on its performance from Covid-19 to date. Advertising company WPP climbed 5.8% to 545.8p, even as it suspended its final dividend and a share buyback, citing a recent deterioration in demand that had blighted an otherwise good start to 2020. Pizza delivery chain Domino's Pizza rose 4.2% to 280p on the back of news that it had hired former Costa Coffee head Dominic Paul as its new chief executive. Flow control and instrumentation group Rotork shed 3.2% to trade at 215.4p as it cancelled its final dividend, having shuttered factories in Italy, India and Malaysia due to government lockdown measures. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Soft drinks group Nichols firmed 4.2% to £12.45 despite news it now expects to see a 'significant impact' on this year's financial performance due to coronavirus. Famed for its iconic Vimto drink, Nichols withdrew guidance for 2020 and cancelled the final dividend in a bid to preserve cash. However, investors welcomed Nichols' confident outlook, the company insisting it will 'emerge from this unprecedented period well-placed to continue to deliver the group's long-term growth plans'. Specialist brick manufacturer Michelmersh Brick gained 8.1% to 93p after it reported a 61% rise in annual profit, indicating its business was traveling well before the Covid-19 crisis hit. Michelmersh Brick last week deferred all dividend payments, having suspended deliveries at all of its plants due to the pandemic. Specialist product manufacturer Morgan Advanced Materials softened 2.4% to 184.5p after it too joined the dividend cancellation club. Banknote printer De La Rue rallied 6.3% to 57.1p, having maintained its guidance and confirming continued progress with its turnaround plan. Cybersecurity company Falanx jumped 43.5% to 0.82p, on announcing that it had received about £1m of new orders in its cybersecurity division between December and mid-February. Falanx said it now expected to deliver 13% growth in revenue to about £5.9m for the year through March 2019. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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