London midday: FTSE maintains gains amid coronavirus optimism
Equity markets in London were still firmly in the black by midday 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 pacing the gains.
The FTSE 100 was up 2.6% at 5,728.71, while sterling was 0.7% higher against the dollar at 1.2321, having fallen late on Monday on news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been moved to intensive care after his coronavirus symptoms worsened.
Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: "Equities are still racing higher, as the news from key countries like Spain and Italy remains positive.
"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.
"This upbeat mood continues to support risk assets in general, and not just stocks, although it is the surge in equities markets, breaking out above recent highs, that is the real indication of a more ebullient mood.
"The big gainers in London this morning are still 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. 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, budget airline easyJet and cinema chain Cineworld were the best performers. 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, Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey all firmer.
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 sharply 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) 894.80p 24.97%
easyJet (EZJ) 654.20p 18.43%
ITV (ITV) 67.54p 15.14%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 101.40p 14.29%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 212.00p 13.79%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 337.30p 13.30%
Barclays (BARC) 98.07p 13.30%
M&G (MNG) 132.80p 12.73%
Next (NXT) 4,250.00p 12.52%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 525.00p 12.42%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,339.00p -3.60%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,293.00p -2.34%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,021.00p -2.27%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,082.00p -1.27%
Experian (EXPN) 2,153.00p -1.10%
Relx plc (REL) 1,734.00p -0.46%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,505.00p -0.29%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,955.50p -0.22%
National Grid (NG.) 864.40p -0.18%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,206.00p -0.05%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Cineworld Group (CINE) 53.86p 35.98%
Hammerson (HMSO) 72.80p 27.36%
Provident Financial (PFG) 186.80p 22.49%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 72.44p 18.56%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 213.00p 17.55%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 916.20p 17.43%
Premier Oil (PMO) 29.24p 16.54%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 116.15p 16.03%
Frasers Group (FRAS) 220.20p 14.63%
National Express Group (NEX) 229.20p 14.03%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Assura (AGR) 77.30p -7.43%
Helios Towers (HTWS) 127.60p -3.19%
Hastings Group Holdings (HSTG) 178.50p -2.72%
Avast (AVST) 391.00p -2.01%
Cranswick (CWK) 3,610.00p -1.90%
Coats Group (COA) 38.10p -1.42%
Gamesys Group (GYS) 803.00p -0.86%
Man Group (EMG) 125.35p -0.32%
BBGI SICAV S.A. (DI) (BBGI) 166.80p -0.12%
Genus (GNS) 3,124.00p 0.00%