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20 Nov 2020 | 15:57

London close: Stocks mixed as investors mull Covid news, UK data

(Sharecast News) - London stocks finished mixed on Friday, as investors digested the latest UK retail sales and borrowing data. The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.27% at 6,351.45, while the FTSE 250 was down 0.003% at 19,506.96.

Sterling was stronger against its major trading pairs, last gaining 0.15% on the dollar to $1.3281, and advancing 0.28% against the euro to €1.1201.

"Equity markets have been noticeably unable to break through their high from earlier in the month, despite further vaccine news, and as we head towards the final full week of November stock markets are still scrabbling around for a catalyst to drive them higher," said IG chief market analyst Chris Beauchamp.

"Speaking of catalysts, it is noteworthy that Mnuchin's decision to request the return of funds from the Fed's emergency programmes is not producing much more downside.

"It looks like on political matters, just as with vaccine hopes, the market is not looking to next week or even the beginning of December but further into the future, in this case beyond 20 January when Biden is installed as president and a new administration can look at the US' problems afresh."

Figures released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed retail sales rose for the sixth consecutive month in October, underpinned by the online segment, while government borrowing hit its highest level on record for that month, but was still lower than expected.

Public sector net borrowing was £22.3bn in October, up £10.8bn from the same month last year and marking the sixth-highest borrowing in any month since records began in 1993, as the government continued to spend amid the pandemic.

However, it was lower than the consensus forecast of £37.2bn.

Separate figures from the ONS showed retail sales rose 1.2% on the month in October, down from 1.5% growth in September but ahead of expectations for no growth.

On the year, sales were 5.8% higher, coming in ahead of expectations for a 4.2% increase.

"Despite the introduction of some local lockdowns in October, retail sales continued its recent run of strong growth," said deputy national statistician for economic statistics, Jonathan Athow.

"Feedback from shops suggested some consumers may have brought forward their Christmas shopping, ahead of potential further restrictions.

"Online stores also saw strong sales, boosted by widespread offers."

Athow did note that the slow recovery in clothing sales had stalled, however, after five consecutive months of increased sales.

Capital Economics said the rise in retail sales in October and the smaller increase in government borrowing suggested that the economy held up better than expected as the tiered Covid-19 restrictions were being implemented.

"But the second lockdown that began in November will probably prompt retail sales to fall again and public borrowing to rise faster."

In equity markets, BAE Systems was up 2.6%, boosted by news of a £16.5bn increase in defence spending.

Hargreaves Lansdown rose 1.53%, after Barclays said in a note that it was one of its favoured names in the investment platform sector.

Croda International was lifted 0.51% by an upgrade to 'buy' at Citi, which said the company has "a good nose for attractive deals" following its recent acquisition of emerging markets focused fragrance player Iberchem.

On the downside, accounting software firm Sage slid 13.39%, after it lifted its dividend as it reported an 8.5% rise in organic recurring revenue rose to £1.6bn, driven by growth from existing and new customers, principally in North America and Northern Europe.

Sector peer Micro Focus also lost ground, closing down 5.95%.

Helios Towers tumbled 11.06% after Millicom Holding sold 52 million shares in the telecommunications company - a 5.2% stake - at 155p each.

That represented an 11.6% discount to the closing share price on Thursday.

Johnson Matthey was knocked 3.86% lower by a downgrade to 'reduce' at AlphaValue.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,351.45 0.27% FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,506.96 0.00% techMARK (TASX) 3,961.49 -0.04%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,135.00p 3.46% Avast (AVST) 474.00p 3.18% JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 823.80p 2.77% BAE Systems (BA.) 521.00p 2.60% Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,569.00p 2.52% Glencore (GLEN) 194.98p 2.43% AstraZeneca (AZN) 8,317.00p 2.36% Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 11,755.00p 2.22% Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,630.00p 2.15% B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 497.60p 2.09%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Sage Group (SGE) 588.80p -13.39% BT Group (BT.A) 122.30p -4.45% Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,315.00p -3.86% Kingfisher (KGF) 283.00p -2.85% Informa (INF) 569.80p -2.20% Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,689.00p -1.80% Whitbread (WTB) 2,994.00p -1.80% Halma (HLMA) 2,381.00p -1.73% Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 218.80p -1.44% Tesco (TSCO) 232.70p -1.44%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Energean (ENOG) 717.20p 5.69% Dunelm Group (DNLM) 1,250.00p 5.40% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 73.30p 5.16% Just Group (JUST) 60.00p 4.99% Cineworld Group (CINE) 46.09p 4.28% IntegraFin Holding (IHP) 510.00p 3.67% Babcock International Group (BAB) 323.10p 3.66% Pets at Home Group (PETS) 405.60p 3.47% Victrex plc (VCT) 2,076.00p 3.37% TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 436.40p 3.34%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Helios Towers (HTWS) 156.00p -11.06% Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 146.00p -7.07% Micro Focus International (MCRO) 328.90p -5.95% ITV (ITV) 91.00p -5.23% BMO Commercial Property Trust Limited (BCPT) 70.00p -4.52% Workspace Group (WKP) 675.50p -3.99% Ninety One (N91) 224.80p -3.68% Vivo Energy (VVO) 85.00p -3.38% Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 135.60p -3.36% AJ Bell (AJB) 436.50p -3.23%
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