UK stocks slump 2% as retail sales plunge, Hong Kong tensions resurface

Fri, 22nd May 2020

UK stocks slumped in early trade on Friday after retail sales tanked in April and China proposed a new security law in Hong Kong that stoked trade tensions with the US. At 0819, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 121.57 points, or 2.0%, at 5.893.68, following a 5% drop on the Hang Seng. UK retail sales plunged a record 18.1% in April, steeper than expectations of 15.8% fall. Bucking the bad news, high-fashion retailer Burberry rose 1.8% to £14.00, even as its cut its dividend as annual profit plunged. Burberry also said it expected the impact from store closures related to lockdowns was nearing a peak. Telecom group Vodafone fell 1.4% to 127.04p on announcing that it had appointed outgoing Heinekin chief executive Jean-Francois Van Boxmeer as its new chairman in waiting. Water utility United Utilities slipped 3.7% to 887.83p as it booked a 71% fall in annual profit, weighed down by charges related to the Covid-19 crisis. United Utilities nevertheless lifted its dividend for the year to 42.6p per share, up 3.2% on-year, including a final payout of 28.4p, but said its dividend for the current financial year was under review. Pharmaceutical company Hikma Pharmaceuticals firmed 0.6% to £25.30, having received approval from US health authorities for a generic version of Amarin's drug used to treat cardiovascular disease. Media platform Future added 1.7% to £11.1079 after it reported a surge in profit as the Covid-19 lockdowns triggered an acceleration in online user growth. Measurement instrument group Spectris shed 4.4% to £25.72 as its sales slumped 20% in the first four months of the year, partly owing to the Covid-19 crisis. Financial services company Close Brothers fell 3.5% to £10.4328, having flagged a jump in bad loan provisions across its businesses due to the the impact of Covid-19. Food court and publishing group Time Out slid 3.4% to 39.6p as it launched a discounted share issue to raise up to £49m to help it weather the Covid-19 storm. Pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan dropped 13% to 13p as it, too, launched a discounted, £12m share issue to fund the development Covid-19 antibody tests and vaccine study models for the disease. Surveillance systems group Synectics jumped 16% to 125p on announcing that it had won two multi-year contracts with existing customers, including Stagecoach and a casino company. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com

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