London close: Rosier sentiment sees stocks hold on to gains
Equity markets in London managed to hold on to their gains by the close on Tuesday, as investors welcomed signs that the coronavirus spread in countries such as Italy and Spain is slowing, with the stocks most battered by the pandemic benefitting from the optimistic mood.
The FTSE 100 ended the session up 2.19% at 5,704.45 and the FTSE 250 closed up 5.11% at 15,568.96.
Sterling was stronger against the dollar, strengthening 0.83% to last trade at $1.2333, although it had slipped 0.14% on the euro to €1.1317.
The pound had fallen late on Monday on the news that prime minister Boris Johnson had been moved to intensive care after his coronavirus symptoms worsened.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesman said Johnson did not have pneumonia and had not been placed on a ventilator, though he remained in intensive care in St Thomas' hospital in London.
“Equities are still racing higher, as the news from key countries like Spain and Italy remains positive,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.
“Stocks continue to rally as investors look for the positives in the current global outlook.
“Spain and Italy, the two key metrics for markets to gauge the effectiveness of the western world’s response, are continuing to see improvement, while in the US New York’s position has stabilised, even if it has not begun to improve.”
Beauchamp said the upbeat mood continued to support risk assets in general, beyond just just stocks, although it was the surge in equities markets breaking out above recent highs that was a real indication of a “more ebullient” mood.
“The big gainers in London … are those that have suffered some of the most substantial drops, such as Cineworld and Carnival.
“Actual good news is still thin on the ground, but brave investors are moving back into these names on the assumption that they actually survive the crisis, rather than go under entirely,” Beauchamp continued.
“Those assumptions are heavily dependent on the UK - and others - recovery path, but at least a way out of the crisis is now conceivable.”
Cruise operator Carnival rose 22.18%, budget airline easyJet added 15.53%, and cinema chain Cineworld rocketed 47.69% higher.
The surge in Cineworld shares came as the company deferred dividends and directors' pay to conserve cash after closing all its cinemas during the Covid-19 crisis.
Housebuilders - which have also taken a beating on worries about the impact of the pandemic - rallied, with Persimmon up 7.41%, Barratt Developments rising 5.32% and Taylor Wimpey 8.72% stronger.
A survey from Halifax released earlier showed that UK house prices were steady in March before the coronavirus lockdown came into effect but that activity is set to fall "sharply" in the coming months.
House prices were flat on the month at £240,384, following a 0.2% increase in February and versus expectations of a 0.1% uptick.
On the year, house prices were up 3% in March following a 2.8% rise the month before and below expectations of a 3.3% increase.
Halifax managing director Russell Galley said the UK housing market began March with similar trends to previous months, as key market indicators showed a sustained level of buyer and seller activity.
"However, it’s clear we ended the month in very different territory as a result of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"On a practical level, most market activity has been paused, with the public rightly following advice to stay at home, and estate agencies, surveyors and conveyancers temporarily closing as a result.
“With viewings cancelled and movers being encouraged to put transactions on hold, activity will inevitably fall sharply in the coming months.”
On the downside, healthcare property developer Assura was 10.18% lower after it raised £185m in a placing to fund the development and acquisition of a pipeline that will deliver future GP surgery, primary care and community healthcare buildings for the NHS.
The shares were placed at 77p each, which is a 7.8% discount to the closing share price on Monday.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Carnival (CCL) 874.80p 22.18%
easyJet (EZJ) 635.80p 15.10%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 335.40p 12.76%
ITV (ITV) 65.60p 11.83%
British Land Company (BLND) 370.00p 10.41%
M&G (MNG) 130.05p 10.40%
Informa (INF) 432.20p 10.40%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 514.80p 10.24%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,427.00p 9.99%
WPP (WPP) 563.20p 9.79%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,199.00p -6.35%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,324.50p -4.64%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,000.00p -2.56%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,175.00p -1.45%
Relx plc (REL) 1,718.00p -1.38%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 180.30p -1.15%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,390.50p -1.10%
National Grid (NG.) 856.60p -1.09%
Pennon Group (PNN) 1,018.50p -0.93%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 115.68p -0.75%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Cineworld Group (CINE) 59.00p 48.95%
Hammerson (HMSO) 77.00p 34.71%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 75.90p 24.22%
Ascential (ASCL) 209.80p 18.87%
Provident Financial (PFG) 178.50p 16.66%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 910.00p 16.64%
Vivo Energy (VVO) 75.50p 16.15%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 218.80p 15.46%
Vistry Group (VTY) 687.00p 15.03%
Future (FUTR) 970.00p 14.79%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Assura (AGR) 75.00p -10.18%
Avast (AVST) 367.60p -7.87%
Helios Towers (HTWS) 123.80p -5.77%
Cranswick (CWK) 3,526.00p -4.18%
Gamesys Group (GYS) 787.00p -2.84%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 84.65p -2.81%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 1,073.50p -2.75%
Sabre Insurance Group (SBRE) 265.00p -2.39%
Fisher (James) & Sons (FSJ) 1,400.00p -2.01%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 283.40p -1.94%