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23 Feb 2021 | 08:10

London open: Travel & leisure stocks pace the advance

(Sharecast News) - London equity markets rose in early trade on Tuesday, with travel and leisure stocks pacing the advance, as investors mulled the latest UK jobs data. At 0840 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.5% at 6,644.62.

Figures released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed the unemployment rate hit its highest level in five years in December.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in the three months to the end of December from 5.0% in November, in line with economists' expectations and marking the highest level since early 2016. Meanwhile, 726,000 jobs were lost since before the pandemic in February 2020.

Still, the figures also showed that in January, 83,000 more people were in payrolled employment compared to December 2020, marking the second consecutive monthly increase.

ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: "Our survey shows that the unemployment rate has had the biggest annual rise since the financial crisis. However, the proportion of people who are neither working nor looking for work has stabilised after rising sharply at the start of the pandemic, with many people who lost their jobs early on having now started looking for work."

In equity markets, travel and leisure stocks rallied as budget airline easyJet said there had been a surge in bookings after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the government's lockdown exit strategy on Monday.

British Airways owner IAG, easyJet, engine maker Rolls-Royce, InterContinental Hotels, Premier Inn owner Whitbread, caterer Compass Group, Cineworld, Rank Group, WH Smith, SSP, Tui and Wetherspoons all gained.

InterContinental Hotels pushed higher despite saying it swung to a full-year loss and scrapping its final dividend after what it called the most challenging year in its history.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The roadmap to reopening has accelerated the recovery in travel and hospitality stocks with fresh rises since the market open.

"The palpable sigh of relief that there are dates to target for struggling pub and restaurant chains, has translated into a share price rally for the sectors.

"Although international travel won't begin until at least 17th May, news that the government's global taskforce will reconvene in April to recommend how holidays can resume has been a boost for the industry which has been anxious for a sense of direction."

Elsewhere, HSBC fell as it reported a 34% slump in annual profits, but resumed dividend payments as it said it would refocus operations on China.

Online supermarket Ocado, which has benefited from lockdowns and restrictions, also lost ground.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,644.62 0.49% FTSE 250 (MCX) 21,179.43 0.95% techMARK (TASX) 4,037.62 0.07%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 111.60p 5.83% International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 187.90p 5.50% Whitbread (WTB) 3,704.00p 4.81% Melrose Industries (MRO) 176.60p 4.22% InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 5,534.00p 4.18% Compass Group (CPG) 1,539.50p 3.60% BP (BP.) 289.85p 3.54% NATWEST GROUP PLC ORD 100P (NWG) 187.60p 2.68% British Land Company (BLND) 486.80p 2.40% Land Securities Group (LAND) 642.40p 2.36%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,347.00p -2.25% Avast (AVST) 464.00p -2.23% Polymetal International (POLY) 1,517.50p -1.56% HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 425.65p -1.39% Aveva Group (AVV) 3,570.00p -1.33% Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 1,252.00p -1.18% Experian (EXPN) 2,392.00p -1.12% AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,121.00p -1.04% B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 555.80p -1.03% Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,400.50p -1.02%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Rank Group (RNK) 167.00p 8.16% WH Smith (SMWH) 1,922.00p 7.68% SSP Group (SSPG) 338.80p 7.56% TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 415.80p 7.19% Cineworld Group (CINE) 94.00p 6.77% Hammerson (HMSO) 23.03p 6.67% easyJet (EZJ) 951.40p 6.64% C&C Group (CCR) 265.00p 6.43% Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 183.10p 5.08% Meggitt (MGGT) 443.70p 4.77%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 327.50p -2.96% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 2,123.00p -2.48% Indivior (INDV) 127.30p -2.38% Synthomer (SYNT) 498.00p -2.35% Royal Mail (RMG) 460.20p -2.29% Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 1,374.00p -1.96% Helios Towers (HTWS) 162.40p -1.58% Renishaw (RSW) 5,805.00p -1.44% Edinburgh Worldwide Inv Trust (EWI) 392.50p -1.38% Softcat (SCT) 1,509.00p -1.24%
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