London midday: Stocks tread water but Just Eat tumbles
London stocks were still treading water by midday on Wednesday, with investors sifting through a raft of corporate updates amid ongoing concerns about the Covid-19 crisis.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.1% at 6,746.41, while sterling was flat against the dollar at 1.3667, having risen sharply in the previous session after Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey cautioned over negative interest rates.
Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: "Equity markets are coming off record highs and the chop sideways reflects a degree of uncertainty as investors pick their way through the minefield of cases, vaccines, stimulus, reflation and an upcoming earnings season."
In equity markets, Just Eat Takeaway fell even as it said revenue rose by more than 50% in 2020 after UK delivery orders increased 387% in the fourth quarter.
Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said that while the results might look good at a glance, growth in the second half of 2020 came at a cost, with underlying profit margins dropping from 42% in H1 to 10% for the full year, "reflecting the substantial investments made in Q4".
"It was this disclaimer that caused investors to send back their order," he said.
Persimmon lost ground as the housebuilder reported a drop in full-year completions and group revenues. Other housebuilders followed suit, with Barratt, Berkeley and Taylor Wimpey all weaker.
PageGroup declined after it said fourth-quarter profit fell by a fifth as tough conditions and Brexit uncertainty in the UK weighed on the recruitment company's performance.
On the upside, retailers were doing well, with Next, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all higher.
Liontrust Asset Management surged after it posted a 43% increase in assets under management over the last quarter and an 83% rise since the start of the current financial year.
Howden Joinery gained as it lifted profits guidance after a better-than-expected performance in the final weeks of the year as locked down Britons spent more time improving their homes during the pandemic.
Gambling firm William Hill nudged a touch higher after it said net annual revenue fell 16% to £1.32bn, reflecting the impact of betting shop closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company, which is being taken over by US giant Caesars Entertainment, reported a 9% rise in fourth-quarter net revenue.
In broker note action, Intertek was lifted by an upgrade to ‘hold’ at HSBC, while Electrocomponents and Ashtead were both higher after upgrades to ‘buy’ by the same outfit.