Lacklustre day on FTSE leaves markets drifting

Traders seemed more interested in watching the action in Westminster as Dominic Cummings dished the dirt on the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic rather than making big moves on the markets.

As a result, the FTSE 100 closed out a lacklustre day down 2.86 points, or 0.04%, at 7026.93.

There was similarly muted sentiment across in Europe, with the German Dax ending down 0.09% and the French Cac up 0.02%.

Connor Campbell, of Spreadex, said: “With little else to occupy them, the markets trickled lower in another entry in what is turning out to be a painfully bland final full week of May.

“Taking their cues from the States, the European indices may as well have not bothered this afternoon.”

He added: “Hopefully tomorrow’s trading will have a bit more about it, though investors may have to wait until the afternoon.”

Tomorrow brings revised GDP figures from the US and updated jobless figures.

In company news, Marks & Spencer unveiled a £201.2 million pre-tax loss last year, with heavy hits to sales in clothing. Plans are also under way to shut 30 stores and turn others into food-only locations.

But shareholders seemed pleased with the transformation plans laid out and shares had a stellar day, closing up 13.25p, or 8.5%, at 169.2p.

Another company to take a big knock from the Covid-19 crisis was commercial landlord British Land, which saw more than £2 billion – or 10.8% – wiped off the value of its retail sites and offices.

The group, which owns shopping centres including Meadowhall in Sheffield and office buildings in London, posted its third straight year of annual losses, with pre-tax losses of £1.05 billion for the year to March 31 against losses of £1.1 billion the previous year.

Shares took a knock, closing down 19p, or 3.7%, at 500.6p.

Shareholders at The Gym Group cheered the news that member numbers have recovered quicker than expected after the company reopened sites across the UK last month.

Shares closed up 28p, or 10.8%, at 287p, as bosses said total membership numbers increased from 547,000 at the end of February to 729,000 by May 24 – although they are off from the 794,000 pre-pandemic levels.

Banknote printer De La Rue failed to impress investors with its turnaround plans, despite posting a 61% jump in annual earnings after slashing costs.

The group saw underlying operating profits – the company’s preferred measure – soar to £38.1 million for the year to March 27, up from £23.7 million the previous year but shares closed down 8p at 193p.

And energy giant SSE saw profit rise slightly as it continued its transformation away from energy supply and to production of electricity, with adjusted operating profits up 1% to just over £1.5 billion, despite a £170 million hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. Shares closed down 8p at 1,542p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Aveva up 88p at 3,416p; Croda up 180p at 7,018p; AB Foods up 60p at 2,350p; Entain up 37p at 1,670.5p and Weir up 39.5p at 1,900.

The biggest fallers were Intertek down 298p at 5,650p; Ocado down 76.5p at 1,929.5p; British Land down 19p at 500.6p; Rolls-Royce down 2.38p at 103.04p and Standard Chartered down 10p at 498p.