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22 Mar 2021 | 07:33

London pre-open: Stocks seen lower amid rise in Europe Covid cases

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were set to fall at the open on Monday amid concerns about the slow vaccine rollout in Europe and rising Covid-19 cases. The FTSE 100 was called to open 14 points lower at 6,694.

CMC Markets analyst David Madden said: "Yesterday it was announced the EU is set to block exports of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccination to the UK. Relations between the two sides haven't been great recently. The trading bloc has underperformed with respect to rolling out vaccinations, more than 10% of the region's population have been vaccinated, while the UK reading is roughly 43%.

"It is reported that Brussels is contemplating the harsh measure as a way of fast-tracking their own vaccination scheme but Britain might retaliate and halt exports to continental Europe. Brussels is citing a vaccine supply crisis as a reason behind the possible export ban, but it reeks of political antics. A tit-for-tat export ban will harm both sides and in turn, will probably put pressure on stock markets as the re-opening of economies will be delayed."

Investors will also be mulling a 15% slide in the Turkish lira after President Erdogan sacked the country's central bank chief over the weekend and replaced him with a critic of high interest rates.

In corporate news, B&Q owner Kingfisher reinstated its dividend as it reported soaring annual profits and a strong start to the new fiscal year on higher demand from "a new generation of DIYers" working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pre-tax profits rose 634% to £756m on a 7.2% increase in sales to £12.3bn. A dividend of 8.5p a share was declared against 3.33p a year earlier. First quarter like-for-like sales were up 24.2% to March 18, Kingfisher said.

Centamin's pre-tax profit for the year to the end of December jumped 82% to $315m (£228m) as the higher price of gold more than offset a dip in production during the Covid-19 crisis. Revenue rose 27% to a record $829m and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation increased 54% to $439m.

The FTSE 250 gold miner proposed a final dividend of 3 cents a share, taking the total 2020 payout to 15 cents a share. Centamin said it would pay at least $105m of dividends in 2021.

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