StockMarketWire.com - Major UK stock markets are poised to close out the week on the front foot along with other European markets, shrugging off previous concerns over a spike in global coronavirus cases.

The benchmark FTSE 100 had rallied nearly 1.5% to 6,236.73 at midday led by internationally-exposed firms, such as pest control group Rentokil, defence engineer Smiths, and Ferguson, plumbing and heating kit supplier.

On the other side of the ledger were domestic-facing stocks, such as banks fashion retailers and home builders. On currency markets, the pound was reasonably steady against the dollar at $1.2389, while Brent crude nudged lower at $41.42 per barrel. Gold slipped around 1% to $1,758.55, reflecting the marginal swing from safety to riskier equity assets.

RETAIL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

Supermarket giant Tesco reversed earlier modest losses to trade around 1% higher at 229p as it reported an 8% increase in first quarter sales as households stocked up during the Covid-19 crisis.

Tesco, however, warned of flat retail operating profits due to an accompanying rise in costs. It also warned of losses in its banking division of up £200 million, having upped its bad debt provisions.

But the UK's wider retailing sector suffered a huge blow as shopping centres owner Intu Properties plunged on a likely collapse into administration, sending the share price crashing 57% to 1.68p with equity investors faced with being completely wiped out.

The company admitted that discussions with its lenders to waive the covenant on its revolving credit facility (which expires at midnight tonight) had failed.

That news dragged retail landlord peer Hammerson sharply lower, its shares slumping nearly 12% to 82.99p, the biggest FTSE 250 loser on Friday.

ASTON MARTIN DILUTES AGAIN

Luxury carmaker Aston Martin Lagonda slumped nearly 10% to 56.35p after announcing another cash call that will further dilute shareholders. It plans to increase its share count by roughly 20% via share placing as the Covid-19 crisis hits sales.

More positively, gambling websites operator 888, jumped more than 13% to 171.2p after predicting that 2020 earnings will 'significantly' beat expectations. That's thanks to a mini gaming boom during lockdown.

Budget airline EasyJet rose around 1.7% to 681.8p after it agreed the sale and leaseback of six A320neo aircraft for $255m to bolster its finances.

Pub company Marston's dropped 5.5% to 60.95p as it swung to a first half loss, after the Covid-19 crisis took a big chunk out its sales.

Marston's said it planned to reopen its pubs from 4 July, in line with government rules, though initial revenue and earnings profiles were uncertain.

OIL EXIT STILL BEING MULLED

Engineering company Weir extended earlier gains to jump nearly 7% after reaffirming its intention to exit its Oil & Gas business, 'at the right time', which had been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis.

Orders at Weir's mineral division, meanwhile, had remained stable in the second quarter, with margins in a normal range. Weir shares rose to £11.045, their highest since before lockdown.

Shared office group Workspace nudged up modestly to 682p after being granted planning consent for a mixed-use redevelopment of two adjacent properties in Wandsworth, south London.

Safety company investor Marlowe edged 1.5% higher to 485p as it forecast a 52% surge in adjusted annual profit and launched a £35m share placing to to fund the acquisition of contractor management software provider Elogbooks.

New shares in Marlowe were being issued at 478p each.

Shares in bowling alley operator Ten Entertainment lost 8.5% to 165.5p after announcing that chief executive Duncan Garrood was resigning to join Empiric Student Property.


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