Wednesday, 22 May: The FTSE was helped this morning by a lower pound that propped the index higher, by around 0.4%. The pound hit near 4-month lows versus major currencies which typically boosts international earners and thus helping the index. During the afternoon, increased political tensions following PMQs as well as focus on minutes from the Fed sent shares lower in both the UK and US, before the FTSE eventually managed to finish with its head slightly above water, albeit by 0.07%. As we write the majority of Wall Street bourses are shedding and the pound shows no sign of recovery.
Today was heavy on the company news front, with a range of updates across numerous sectors released. Marks & Spencer’s made early headlines as the retailer showed a 27% jump in pre-tax profits and declared they would be launching a £600m rights issue to fund the Ocado JV. Shares were bottom of the FTSE wire to wire and closed 9.4% lower.
Royal Mail shares were also in focus after their latest update in which they stated that the dividend would be slashed and they laid out a 5-year turnaround plan. Shares closed 5% higher though, assumingly the plan must have hit some right notes.
Babcock’s update was among the underperformers of the day, as they showed a fall in pre-tax profit for fiscal 2019 and mustered up a drab outlook with performance expected to be weighted towards the back end of fiscal 2020. Shares reacted poorly and closed -15% for the day.
Back to those who faired better today, Pets at Home shares jumped nearly 14% after their year-end results. Investors were pleasantly surprised with figures clearly better than expected but brokers point out there is more work to do as challenges coming include rising veterinary salaries, borrowing costs and online competition. They’d have topped the FTSE 250 rankings had it not been for Metro Bank which is enduring a volatile run at the minute as we all know. Shares of the challenger bank rose 15.24% respectively today.
Britvic chimed in with a decent update also, in line with expectations for their first half. Management remain confident in their longer-term goals and their track-record gives reassurances to this. Since the government’s soft drinks levy last year they have benefitted more so as their sugar-free portfolio thrives. Shares bounced around before eventually closing 1.3% lower, possibly due to gains being banked.
IG Group enjoyed a positive day, which have been few and far between. They expect a revenue and profit drop in 2019 but have detailed a 3-year turnaround plan, which again must have given investors something to latch onto. But given the share’s performance over the last 12 months these could be speculative as much as anything, shares closed 12.5% lower today and they trade lower by around 40% over the last year.