- UK stocks opened lower on Friday, despite an improvement in local retail sales, as mounting Covid-19 cases in Britain and elsewhere in Europe stoke fears of more national lockdowns.

At 0823, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 17.72 points, or 0.3%, at 6,032.20.

UK retail sales climbed 0.8% in August, though the rise was in line with market expectations.

Health secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out a second UK national lockdown in an interview with Sky News after the Financial Times reported that government-appointed experts had suggested a two-week lockdown in October.

Bourse operator London Stock Exchange added 0.2% to £88.60, having revealed that it had entered into exclusive talks to sell Borsa Italiana to Euronext.

London Stock Exchange confirmed it had received and reviewed a number of proposals from several parties for the Italian exchange group.

Budget airline EasyJet dropped 4.3% to 568.4p on announcing that it had appointed TUI's Kenton Jarvisas as its new chief financial officer, to replace outgoing finance chief Andrew Findlay.

Jarvis was currently head of TUI's aviation division, as well as business improvement director at the German travel group.

Infrastructure investor John Laing climbed 3.4% to 294.6p after it agreed to sell its 30% stake in the second phase of the UK's InterCity Express rail programme for up to £421m.

John Laing pledged to pay a portion of the sale proceeds to shareholders in the form of annual dividends.

Fund manager Man gained 0.3% to 115.85p as it kicked off an up to $100m share buyback.

Printed circuit technology supplier Trackwise Designs surged 23% to 141.6p, having signed a three-year manufacturing agreement potentially worth up to £38m with a UK electric vehicle maker.

TV and multimedia content producer Zinc Media rallied 6.4% to 69.7p, even as it posted a first-half loss after revenue halved due to delayed productions resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns.

Zinc Media, however, said it still expected to be profitable by the second half of 2021 as it nears completion of a transformation plan.

Retailing space agency SpaceandPeople shed 2.8% to 5.15p on news that chief executive and co-founder Matthew Bending had stood down, with immediate effect, to concentrate on other opportunities.

Bending had been replaced as CEO by the company's other co-founder, Nancy Cullen, who was previously chief operating officer.

People-screening technology provider Thruvision firmed 2.6% to 28.21p after it won a contract from US Customers and Border Protection for further units and associated support services worth $4.9m.

Specialist regeneration developer U+I added 2.5% to 61.5p on announcing that it had formed a joint venture with privately held real estate investor Yoo Capital Investment Management.

The partnership was formed via Yoo Capital Investment Management acquiring a majority ownership in Shepherd's Bush Market in London for its Yoo Capital Fund II.

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