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18 Jan 2021 | 11:18

London midday: Stocks edge lower as travel & leisure sector hit

(Sharecast News) - London stocks had edged a little lower by midday on Monday as investors mulled the latest data out of China, with travel and leisure shares under the cosh amid concerns about the Covid-19 crisis. The FTSE 100 was down 0.3% at 6,718.76.

IG market analyst Joshua Mahony said: "Despite a decline in UK Covid cases, the emergence of multiple highly contagious strains of the virus has dented any hope for a reopening in the coming months.

"The travel sector is now wholly reliant upon vaccination efforts, with the UK government decision to close all travel corridors likely to remain in place until the government has protected a sufficient proportion of the UK population. While the 2020 summer was a write-off for airlines, the hope is that the vaccination programme will provide a timely boost that will finally bring a wave of booking."

Investors were digesting the latest data out of China, which showed the economy grew by 2.3% in 2020 in a sharp rebound from the coronavirus pandemic which tore through the country in the early part of the year.

The annual growth rate was the lowest since the Chinese economy shrank by 1.6% at the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, but was in stark contrast to the performance of other major economies, all of which have reported contractions as they struggle to battle the crisis.

Growth accelerated in the final quarter, with the economy expanding 6.5% year on year ahead of analysts' forecasts of 6.2%, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

It was also a marked change from the first quarter of 2020, when the economy shrank by 6.8%, in the first quarterly contraction since records began.

Retail sales grew 4.6% in December, down from 5% growth in November. Meanwhile, industrial production was up 7.3% in December versus 7% growth the month before. Analysts had been expecting a 5.5% jump in retail sales and a 6.9% increase in industrial production.

In equity markets, travel and leisure stocks were the biggest fallers amid worries about the impact of Covid-19 after the UK closed all travel corridors until at least 15 February. British Airways parent IAG, budget airlines easyJet and Wizz Air, travel company TUI and cruise operator Carnival were all lower.

Elsewhere, BT fell following reports over the weekend that it is facing a class action lawsuit over claims it failed to compensate elderly customers overcharged for landlines.

Centrica lost ground after it said chief financial officer Johnathan Ford has quit in the middle of a turnaround plan for the energy supplier. Ford has stepped down with immediate effect for personal reasons. Kate Ringrose, group financial controller, has replaced him.

On the upside, Just Eat Takeaway and Ocado - both of which have benefited from lockdowns and restrictions - were among the top risers.

Animal genetics company Genus rallied as it said profit growth for the year ending 30 June 2021 is set to be ahead of its previous expectations following a strong first-half trading performance.

Chemring was boosted by an upgrade to 'overweight' at Barclays, which said it is the most attractive way to play the cyber security growth theme in the UK.

Telecommunications testing firm Spirent ticked higher after it said full-year profits were set to be in line with expectations after a strong fourth quarter driven by work on 5G infrastructure.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,718.76 -0.25% FTSE 250 (MCX) 20,627.66 0.06% techMARK (TASX) 4,150.02 0.01%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 2,730.00p 2.06% Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,560.00p 1.87% Avast (AVST) 542.00p 1.59% Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,339.00p 1.48% Evraz (EVR) 507.40p 1.32% Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,278.00p 1.29% Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 11,580.00p 1.27% Barclays (BARC) 150.52p 1.16% Rentokil Initial (RTO) 526.80p 1.15% Persimmon (PSN) 2,720.00p 1.12%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

BT Group (BT.A) 137.85p -2.13% International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 158.80p -2.13% Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,494.00p -1.81% BAE Systems (BA.) 487.10p -1.72% Kingfisher (KGF) 265.20p -1.56% Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,462.20p -1.40% Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) 14,820.00p -1.36% Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,401.00p -1.34% BHP Group (BHP) 2,107.50p -1.29% Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 104.55p -1.27%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Tritax Big Box Reit (BBOX) 185.70p 5.39% Genus (GNS) 4,530.00p 5.06% Dixons Carphone (DC.) 124.00p 3.85% Chemring Group (CHG) 311.00p 3.67% Wood Group (John) (WG.) 348.00p 2.87% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 1,656.80p 2.58% 888 Holdings (888) 312.50p 2.46% Serco Group (SRP) 125.60p 2.36% Apax Global Alpha Limited (APAX) 190.00p 2.26% Hammerson (HMSO) 23.20p 2.20%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 114.85p -4.89% Sirius Real Estate Ltd. (SRE) 84.50p -3.87% easyJet (EZJ) 808.80p -2.79% Just Group (JUST) 77.80p -2.75% TP ICAP (TCAP) 221.20p -2.73% Babcock International Group (BAB) 214.70p -2.54% CMC Markets (CMCX) 417.00p -2.46% Provident Financial (PFG) 271.00p -2.45% Micro Focus International (MCRO) 416.30p -2.41% Avon Rubber (AVON) 3,470.00p -2.39%
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