Markets remain unsure if Brexit deal can be reached

Another day, another wait for traders hoping that the UK and EU will finally say whether a last minute deal can be reached or if their future consists of tariffs via a no-deal Brexit.

Investors were cautious ahead of the crucial talks in Brussels due to take place on Wednesday night, sending the FTSE 100 up just 5.47 points, or 0.1%, at 6,564.29.

The pound showed a bit more spirit, rising 0.26% against the dollar to 1.339. It was also up 0.47% against the euro as markets closed for the day at 1.109.

Neil Wilson, financial analyst at Markets.com, said: “So far no one is prepared to take a decisive position and cable continues to chop around the 1.33-34 area (against the dollar).

“This only shows that traders think both outcomes – deal or no-deal – are still very much in the running. We await signals from the dinner between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen this evening.”

In Europe the CAC 40 in Paris ended down 0.3%, while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt rose 0.5%.

In company news, Tesco confirmed it will finally part ways with its Asian arm after regulators approved its £8 billion sale of the business.

The deal means the supermarket will be able to pay out a £5 billion special dividend in February. Shares closed up 2p at 226.5p.

Cigarette giant British American Tobacco said it believed it will take a smaller hit from the pandemic than previously thought after South Africa ended a ban on cigarette sales early.

A drop of just 2.5% is now expected from Covid-19, compared with previous estimates of 3%. Shares closed up 7p at 2,909p.

The boss of bus group Stagecoach has warned that people will permanently travel less due to the shift towards home-working during the coronavirus pandemic as the group revealed that profits crashed more than 90%.

Chief executive Martin Griffiths said Covid-19 will see people make fewer journeys even after the crisis has passed as a five-day working week in the office is consigned to history.

But he said he is “optimistic” that bus travel demand will bounce back amid a push to switch away from single car journeys.

Stagecoach shareholders did not seem to mind a profits crash of 90% at the bus business, clinging to the optimistic future painted by Mr Griffiths. Shares closed up 4.7p at 78.65p.

By comparison, car dealership Marshall Motor issued a profit upgrade for the second time in as many months as demand for cars continued to soar. Shares closed up 11.5p at 145p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Just Eat Takeaway up 552p at 8,084p; Kingfisher up 10.4p at 273.9p; DCC up 190p at 5,626p; Ocado up 76p at 2,326p and BT up 4.2p at 138.3p.

The biggest fallers were CRH down 104p at 2,990p; Polymetal down 40.5p at 1,659.5p; Smurfit Kappa down 76p at 3,374p, 3i down 22.5p at 1,138p and Hikma down 46p at 2,479p.

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