Markets continue waiting game for Brexit plans

A no-deal Brexit continued to spook traders on Thursday with the pound falling once again on fears that a trade deal will not be agreed ahead of Sunday’s newly-set deadline.

As markets across Europe closed, the pound fell 0.82% against the dollar at 1.329 and down 1.18% against the euro at 1.097.

But the falls helped the FTSE 100 to outperform its peers, with the “cheaper” looking pound benefitting internationally-focused businesses which make up the majority of the blue-chip index.

The FTSE 100 closed up 35.47 points, or 0.54%, at 6599.76.

But while traders waited for any movement over the UK’s future relationship with the EU, they enjoyed some respite from the European Central Bank’s latest move to inject extra funds into the system.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The pandemic emergency purchase plan (PEPP) was boosted by 500 billion euros (£456 billion) and the timescale of the scheme was extended until March 2022 – these measures were not exactly a surprise.

“In June, the PEPP was upped by 600 billion euros, so today’s extra stimulus represents a step down, and that could suggest that the next round will be smaller again – should there be a next round. ”

In company news, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group revealed pre-tax profits jumped 17.6% to £106.1 million in the six months to the end of October.

The retailer was helped by the business rates holiday and confirmed it was interested in some of the Arcadia brands currently in administration.

Shares closed up 56.8p at 495.8p

Ocado raised profit guidance for the third time this year, as it revealed sales jumped in the run-up to December.

But investors decided to cash in on the profits and appear more concerned with the good times ending once the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out fully. Shares closed down 167p at 2,159p

FirstGroup reached an agreement with the Government over the termination of two rail franchises. It came as the company reported pre-tax losses narrowed to £100.1 million, from £187.1 million in the first half of last year. Revenue dropped more than 12% to £3.1 billion.

But shareholders were less impressed with the news and shares closed down 2.7p at 66.25p.

Holiday firms Tui and On The Beach both revealed heavy losses, with the former warning that bookings will not recover fully until 2022.

Tui swung to an 893.5 million euros (£811.3 million) loss with revenues down 58% and On the Beach recorded a pre-tax loss of £46.3 million for the year to September 30.

Shares in Tui closed down 16.7p at 425p On The Beach closed up 1p at 368p.

And losses increased nearly 20-fold at pub giant Marston’s in the last year, as the business tried to ride out the Covid-19 storm.

Pre-tax loss reached £397.1 million in the 12 months to early October, up from just £20.1 million a year earlier, sending shares down 6.65p to 63.35p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were BP up 12.15p at 284.75p; DS Smith up 13.6p at 372.1p; Royal Dutch Shell “B” shares up 50.4p at 1,385.2p; Royal Dutch Shell “A” shares up 51p at 1,434.8p and Hikma up 80p at 2,559p.

The biggest fallers were Ocado down 167p at 2,159p; Persimmon down 171p at 2,514p; Barratt Developments down 32.2p at 598.6p; Lloyds Group down 1.58p at 35.67p and Taylor Wimpey down 6.75p at 153.3p.