London open: Stocks rise amid signs of slowdown in coronavirus deaths
London stocks rose in early trade on Monday, taking their cue from a positive session in Asia as investors welcomed signs that new coronavirus cases and deaths are slowing.
At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 2.5% at 5,549.20, while the pound was flat against the dollar at 1.2267, having fallen on Sunday night on news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been admitted to hospital with persistent coronavirus symptoms.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: "As we head into a new week markets appear to be taking encouragement from the fact that death rates appear to be plateauing across Europe, with Spain, Italy, France and UK all seeing declines in their Sunday numbers.
"There was also optimism in New York after the death rate also fell, though it’s way too early to draw any conclusions at this early stage for the US, as infections there continue to rise sharply.
"Italy reported its lowest death rate for over two weeks yesterday, and while the number is still tragically high, at least it is heading in the right direction."
In equity markets, Legal & General was the top performer on the FTSE 100 after saying late on Friday that it still intends to pay a final dividend for 2019 despite a warning from the Bank of England.
Meanwhile, investors were taking the latest batch of Covid-19 updates in their stride.
Rolls-Royce racked up healthy gains after it pulled its dividend and implemented pay cuts from the boardroom to the shop floor as it moved to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The aircraft engine maker said it would cut salary costs across its global workforce by at least 10% in 2020. Salaries for senior managers and the executive team would be reduced by 20% comprising a cut and deferral with an extra bonus deferral for the chief executive and chief financial officer.
Sage advanced even as it scrapped its £250m share buyback and predicted the Covid-19 crisis would hit revenue growth in the second half of the financial year.
Sports betting and gambling company GVC Holdings surged. The group said it now expects the closure of retail outlets and cancellation of sports events to result in £50m of losses per month after taking mitigating actions, versus a previous estimate of £100m per month. However, it also said it was withdrawing its second interim dividend.
Bodycote rallied after saying that first-quarter trading had not been "significantly" impacted by the pandemic but that its proposed final dividend was under review given current uncertainty.
WH Smith was also in the green after announcing that it has secured new lending facilities of £120m that are conditional on raising new equity.
Petrofac gushed higher after pulling its final dividend, withdrawing guidance and saying it was cutting its personnel by 20% and furloughing staff due to the outbreak.
On the downside, Smiths Group fell after saying trading was increasingly affected by the Covid-19 crisis as the engineering company reported a 6% increase in operating profit.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 181.95p 13.93%
Carnival (CCL) 687.40p 11.81%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 274.50p 9.10%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 80.86p 7.44%
ITV (ITV) 58.40p 7.31%
Prudential (PRU) 982.00p 6.72%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 433.20p 6.25%
Next (NXT) 3,596.00p 6.08%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 407.60p 6.06%
M&G (MNG) 115.60p 5.67%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,028.50p -3.02%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 843.20p -0.78%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,240.00p -0.19%
Admiral Group (ADM) 2,200.00p 0.00%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,283.00p 0.18%
Fresnillo (FRES) 638.40p 0.38%
DCC (DCC) 4,941.00p 0.41%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 4,480.00p 0.49%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 186.70p 0.54%
BP (BP.) 340.10p 0.83%
FTSE 250 - Risers
G4S (GFS) 84.24p 20.48%
Network International Holdings (NETW) 364.40p 13.87%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 191.30p 11.42%
Hyve Group (HYVE) 18.10p 10.37%
National Express Group (NEX) 203.60p 10.11%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 353.20p 9.49%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 525.00p 8.54%
BlackRock Smaller Companies Trust (BRSC) 1,110.00p 7.77%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,326.00p 7.29%
Future (FUTR) 835.00p 7.19%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Premier Oil (PMO) 22.11p -3.20%
Energean Oil & Gas (ENOG) 658.00p -2.81%
Ascential (ASCL) 189.60p -1.56%
IntegraFin Holding (IHP) 413.50p -0.96%
Petropavlovsk (POG) 18.72p -0.85%
Ninety One (N91) 166.50p -0.18%
BBGI SICAV S.A. (DI) (BBGI) 164.00p -0.12%
Playtech (PTEC) 177.20p -0.06%
Spectris (SXS) 2,295.00p -0.04%
Bodycote (BOY) 487.20p 0.00%