StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks opened lower on Tuesday as the known global death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic passed 1 million people and investors braced for the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden later in the day.

At 0825, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 18.17 points, or 0.3%, at 5,909.76.

High-street bakery chain Greggs fell 3.9% to £11.7121, as investors remained unimpressed with recent trading, even as the company said activity had picked in September following a slower August.

Like-for-like sales in Greggs company-managed shops had averaged around 71% of the 2019 level in the 12 weeks to 26 September.

Plumbing company Ferguson jumped 5.4% to £78.18 as it resumed its dividend, citing a strong financial position, even as it reported a fall annual profit pinned on the pandemic.

Ferguson's pre-tax profit for the year through July fell 4.8%, but the company restored a dividend of 208.2c per share.

General merchandise retailer B&M European Value Retail firmed 2.5% to 502.76p, having lifted its earnings guidance as customers spent more money per visit.

B&M European said its first-half adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were expected at £285 million, above a previous £250 million-to-£270 million guidance range.

Oil company Cairn Energy shed 1.4% to 138.5p after it racked up a $323.5m first-half loss owing to lower oil prices.

Auto retailer Pendragon rallied 7.3% to 8.02p, even as it posted a first-half loss after the Covid-19 crisis hurt demand for travel as people isolated at home.

On current trading, however, Pendragon said it had swung to a pre-tax profit during the months of July and August amid a bounce back in demand.

Regeneration specialist St. Modwen Properties advanced 1.9% to 318p on announcing that it had appointed Sarwjit Sambhi as its new chief executive.

Sambhi was most recently the head of power utility and British Gas owner Centrica's consumer business. He would take the reins from current interim CEO Rob Hudson from 2 November.

Furniture and flooring retailer ScS slumped 4.9% to 209.2p as it swung to a full-year loss after the Covid-19 pandemic led to the temporary closure of its stores between March and May.

On current trading, ScS said its order intake was up 46% on a like-for-like basis for the first nine weeks of the new financial year to 26 September.

Security services group Westminster gained 4.3% to 7.3p, having won an up to £1.8m contract to replace and maintain the security screening equipment at the Palace of Westminster.

Respiratory drug focused Synairgen added 1.2% to 164.49p on announcing that it and pharmaceutical services company Clinigen had agreed to launch an access programme for a potential treatment for Covid-19.

The programme would be established for Synairgen's inhaled formulation of interferon beta, SNG001, in the UK and the EU for the treatment of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. Clinigen added 1.0% to 656.5p.

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