London stocks finished in a mixed state on Tuesday amid concerns about the Covid-19 crisis, with the capital set to be plunged into Tier 3, as investors mulled grim UK jobs data.
The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.28% at 6,513.32, while the FTSE 250 gained 0.45% to 19,852.39.
Sterling was stronger against its major trading pairs, last rising 0.84% on the dollar to $1.3436, and advancing 0.77% against the euro to €1.1055.
CMC Markets analyst David Madden said there was an air of optimism during the afternoon, with traders upbeat on UK-EU trade talks, vaccines, US stimulus negotiations and politics assisting a “bullish” mood.
“Micheál Martin, the Irish premier, said that he has greater hope for a UK-EU trade deal this week.
“The situation has yet to be resolved but it seems that things are heading in the right direction.”
Madden also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted emergency approval for the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Moderna, so things were also improving on the health front.
“It is looking more likely that there will be a smooth transition of power from President Trump to President-elect Joe Biden in January as the US electoral college confirmed the Biden victory.
“Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, acknowledged the Biden win so that should help pave the way for the Democrat to move into the White House in January.”
Market participants were earlier mulling the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed the unemployment rate ticked higher in October while redundancies rose to a record high as the coronavirus pandemic continued to take its toll.
Redundancies came in at 370,000, which was an increase of a record 217,000 on the quarter.
The unemployment rate rose to 4.9% from 4.8%, although this was a little better than expectations of 5.1%.
It also showed that since February, 819,000 fewer people were in payrolled employment.
“Overall we have seen a continuation of recent trends, with a further weakening in the labour market,” said ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan.
“The latest monthly tax numbers show over 800,000 fewer employees on the payroll in November than in February, with new analysis finding that over a third of this fall came from the hospitality sector.”
Morgan noted that, in the three months to October, employment was still falling sharply and unemployment was rising, although the number of people neither working nor looking for work was little changed.
“Average hours per worker were continuing to recover, though this was before the second lockdown in England.
“While there was another record rise in redundancies in the latest three months as a whole, they began to ease during October.”
Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell, noted that there was no flattening in the curve of redundancies at the moment, despite the last minute extension of the furlough scheme.
“The latest data provides a picture of activity in the labour market before an effective vaccine was announced and that news in itself may serve to save some jobs, as it gives businesses a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
“However, the outlook is still for rising unemployment and London’s move into a Tier 3 zone further undermines business and job security and highlights how the economy is still vulnerable to the ebb and flow of the pandemic.
“The OBR expects unemployment to peak at 7.5% in the second quarter next year, which unfortunately means significantly more job losses in the next few months.”
In equity markets, Rolls-Royce closed down 2.91% after a downgrade to ‘sell’ at Panmure Gordon.
London West End property owner Shaftesbury lost 2.64% after saying it swung to a full-year loss as the coronavirus pandemic hammered rental income and the capital prepared to enter another round of top level restrictions.
Airtel Africa tumbled 20.17% after an institutional investor sold 60 million shares in the telecommunications provider in a placing.
Going the other way, JD Sports Fashion closed up 2.69% after saying it had bought US-based Shoe Palace for $325m, along with an equity share in the enlarged group for the company’s founders.
Chemring Group was also on the rise, gaining 10.7% after it posted a jump in full-year profit and revenue.
FTSE 100 – Risers
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,508.00p 4.07%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 168.85p 3.59%
Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 287.00p 3.05%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 814.60p 3.04%
Persimmon (PSN) 2,654.00p 2.71%
British Land Company (BLND) 495.00p 2.65%
St James’s Place (STJ) 1,109.00p 2.59%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 621.20p 2.58%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 36.65p 2.57%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 160.65p 2.49%
FTSE 100 – Fallers
Rightmove (RMV) 630.80p -3.40%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 115.30p -2.91%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,446.00p -2.78%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,358.00p -2.50%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,505.00p -2.43%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,408.00p -2.08%
Croda International (CRDA) 6,276.00p -2.00%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,499.00p -1.90%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 2,232.00p -1.89%
Sage Group (SGE) 575.20p -1.84%
FTSE 250 – Risers
Chemring Group (CHG) 300.00p 10.70%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 1,628.20p 6.47%
Polypipe Group (PLP) 536.00p 6.09%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 172.90p 4.85%
Grafton Group Ut (GFTU) 900.00p 4.83%
Frasers Group (FRAS) 472.60p 4.74%
Helios Towers (HTWS) 143.60p 4.66%
Marshalls (MSLH) 717.00p 4.52%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 134.60p 4.34%
Vistry Group (VTY) 870.00p 4.13%
FTSE 250 – Fallers
Airtel Africa (AAF) 73.00p -20.17%
Capita (CPI) 43.00p -4.25%
Serco Group (SRP) 114.70p -3.61%
Indivior (INDV) 102.30p -3.58%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 367.50p -3.57%
Shaftesbury (SHB) 533.00p -2.91%
Carnival (CCL) 1,360.50p -2.75%
Network International Holdings (NETW) 296.20p -2.31%
Worldwide Healthcare Trust (WWH) 3,715.00p -2.23%
Diploma (DPLM) 2,088.00p -2.16%