UK stocks open 0.1% higher after fiery US presidential debate

Wed, 30th Sep 2020

UK stocks made modest gains in early trading on Wednesday after a chaotic and insult-laden presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden appeared to do little to sway investors. At 0825, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 7.82 points, or 0.1%, at 5,905.32. The small gains also came after official data showed the UK economy had slumped by 19.4% in the second quarter, ahead of market expectations of a 20.4% drop. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell rose 1.5% to 998.7p after it confirmed that it expected to cut between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs by the end of 2022 amid the collapse in oil prices. Shell also narrowed its third-quarter production forecast after it took a hit from hurricanes in the US Gulf of Mexico, while warning of 'significantly lower' refining margins. William Hill pushed 0.2% higher to 274.6p after its board accepted a £2.9 billion takeover bid from US casino giant Caesars Entertainment. Caesars had offered 272p per share, which was a 58% premium to William Hill's closing price on 1 September, the day it was first approached by Caesars. Online gambling company 888 soared 22% to 255.5p, having upped its dividend and lifted its guidance after first-half profit more than doubled, led by a increase in casino revenue and customer growth. 888 raised its interim dividend to 3.2c per share from 3c and included an additional one-off 2.8c, bringing the total to 6c. Defence technology company QinetiQ firmed 6.6% to 286.6p as it reinstated its dividend, while guiding for a full-year earnings performance 'modestly ahead' of current market expectations. QinetiQ said it would pay an additional dividend of 4.4p per share, representing the deferred final dividend from the 2020 financial year. Food caterer Compass was a drag on the market, dropping 4.2% to £11.575 after it flagged a £100 million contract impairment charge. On a more positive note, Compass said its business was now breaking even at a trading level, following improved performance in the fourth quarter. Video games developer Sumo rallied 9.1% to 215.4p on announcing that it had agreed to acquire US-based rival Pipeworks for up to $99.5 million, including debt. Sumo also a reported a more than doubling of first-half profit as demand for gaming soared during lockdowns. Defence company Chemring gained 1.3% to 236.52p, having won separate contracts from the US Navy and Air Force. Advertising firm M&C Saatchi dropped 5.7% to 54.32p on announcing that its shares would be suspended from trading on Thursday due to delays in publishing its results for 2019, which it said would show a deeper annual loss. Recently listed online retailer The Hut Group added 0.7% to 608p amid news that it had acquired US skincare brand Perricone MD for $60 million. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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