- FTSE 100 closes up more than xx% as US stocks recover

The start of the week saw the FTSE 100 recover at least some of the ground lost last week with US stocks also opening higher.

The FTSE 100 closed up 1.4% at 5,657.01, with European markets also making solid progress, while the S&P 500 was up 1.2% to 3,310.36 by 4.30pm UK time ahead of tomorrow's US presidential election.

Consumer goods firm Unilever was 1.8% higher at £44.85 as the UK High Court approved a cross-border merger between the UK and Dutch entities of the business.

Elsewhere Primark owner Associated British Foods reversed earlier losses to trade 0.7% higher at £17.10 after it warned of a £375 million loss on Primark sales on temporary store closures following new lockdowns implemented across Europe and the proposed lockdown in England.

Primark stores in the Republic of Ireland, France, Belgium, Wales, Catalonia in Spain and Slovenia were temporarily closed, which represented 19% of its total retail selling space.

Online grocery deliver firm Ocado jumped 8.5% to £24.70 after it upgraded full year earnings expectations having reported strong demand from its Ocado Retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer.

As a result of the strong performance, the firm now expects full year EBITDA for the group to be over £60 million, versus previous guidance of over £40 million.

Meanwhile the company also announced two acquisitions. It agreed a deal to buy advanced piece-picking robotics company Kindred Systems for $262 million, and robotic-arm designer and manufacturer Haddington Dynamics for $25 million.

Gambling company GVC dropped 3.4% to 933p after it warned on performance following enforced store closures across UK and European retail amid further coronavirus lockdown measures.

The company estimates the impact on EBITDA of currently required retail closures at £37 million, while the impact on EBITDA if all retail outlets were to be closed for a month would be £43 million.

Outsourcer Serco plunged 13.1% to 112.5p after a joint venture it was part of was stripped of a contract to provide nuclear warheads, after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) moved to effectively renationalise the job.

Serco said was informed by the MoD on Friday night that AWE plc, the entity controlling the Atomic Weapons Establishment and in which it holds a 24.5% interest, will transfer back under the direct control and management of the MoD as from 30 June 2021.

Insurance firm Hiscox gained 2.3% to 843p after it said gross written premiums grew 15% in the third quarter of the year, thanks to rate improvement and growth in customer numbers.

Software investor HgCapital Trust dipped 1.2% to 293.5p having agreed to sell its stake in STP, a DACH-based provider of legal tech solutions, to Bregal Unternehmerkapital, in a deal worth £15.1 million.

Kitchens and joinery products seller Howdens gained 0.7% to 641.4p after it said it would consider renewing dividend payments next year, baring no further disruptions, after performance improved 'significantly,' following virus-led disruptions to activity in the first half of the year.

Fund manager Liontrust Asset Management fell 1.6% to £12.30 as it completed the sale and purchase of Architas' UK Investment business for up to £75 million.

The acquisition, completed on 30 October 2020, would add £5,691 million to assets under management and advice, taking Liontrust AuMA to £26.8 billion, the company said.

Park Plaza hotel owner PPHE fell 7.7% to 928p as it reported a big fall in revenue and occupancy in its third quarter. Total revenue in the three months to 30 September fell 74.2% to £31.2 million, compared to £121 million in the same period a year ago, as occupancy dropped to 28.6% from 86.7% in the third quarter of 2019.

Engineering company Weir gained 1.7% to £14.58 after it appointed two former mining CEOs to its board of directors as it looks to transition to becoming a mining technology business. Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan and Ben Magara will join Weir's board as non-executive directors with effect from 19 January 2021.

Independent oil and gas company i3 Energy gained 9.9% to 4.45p after it said it expected to declare and pay its first dividend in the first quarter of next year. The company also said it had completed the acquisition of Toscana, which was expected to be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Oil engineering services provider Lamprell gained 3.7% to 31.2p after it said it had been awarded a 'medium-sized' three-year contract by International Maritime Industries to undertake engineering design services.

At market close:

[LON:ABF] Associated British Foods PLC share price was +24.5p at 1722p

[LON:GVC] Gvc Holdings PLC share price was -33.2p at 933p

[LON:OCDO] Ocado Group PLC share price was +183p at 2459p

[LON:SRP] Serco Group PLC share price was -17.2p at 112.2p

[LON:ULVR] Unilever PLC share price was +75p at 4479p

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