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FTSE up more than 2% ahead of election

The FTSE 100 closed sharply higher on Tuesday, up 2.3% to 5,786.77 ahead of the result of the presidential election. Markets are apparently hoping the election result will be decisive enough to end the political uncertainty across the Atlantic. On Wall Street the S&P 500 was up 2.3% at 3,387.31 by 4.30pm UK time.

In company news, Alibaba spin off Ant, which was on track to be the largest ever IPO, was pulled at the last minute over apparent regulatory concerns. Alibaba shares traded in New York fell in response.

Crest Nicholson jumped 16.5% to 253.6p after the homebuilder forecast annual profit ahead of market expectations and reinstated dividends due to a strong recovery in the housing market.

Associated British Foods reported a slump in annual profit as the coronavirus-led hit to Primark sales offset growth in its sugar and food ingredients units.

For the year ended 12 September, pre-tax profit fell 40% to £686 million year-on-year as revenue dropped 12% to £13.94 billion.

The revenue decline was mainly driven by the 'loss of sales for the period in which Primark's stores were closed,' the company said.

'We estimate that Primark lost £2 billion of sales and some £650 million of profit as a result of COVID-19.'

The weakness in Primark offset combined adjusted operating profit growth of 26% for grocery, sugar, ingredients and agriculture.

ABF shares gained 0.4% to £17.28.

Thread manufacturer Coats jumped 11% to 60.4p after upgrading its outlook on profit following improved trading performance.

Adjusted operating profit for 2020 is expected to be ahead of market expectations and in the range of $100 million to $110 million, the company said.

For the period 1 July 2020 to 31 October 2020, sales declined 11% year-on-year, which reflected 15% organic decline and a 6% contribution from the acquisition of Pharr High Performance Yarns, acquired in February.

The decline was pressured by a 15% fall in apparel and footwear.

'The improving performance seen to date and trading outlook for the remainder of 2020 remains encouraging, however, we are mindful that uncertainties related to Covid remain around the recovery profile of our various global end markets as we look into 2021,' the company said.

Packaging firm DS Smith flagged improving market conditions and maintained its own financial performance guidance despite the obvious uncertainties around the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares in the FTSE 250 business dipped 0.8% to 289.6p despite news that market trends and the company's performance had continued to improve since issuing its previous update on 8 September.

Budget carrier Wizz Air flew 69.1% fewer passengers during the month of October year-on-year, as the pandemic continued to pressure travel demand.

Passenger volumes in September dropped to 1,146,227, down from 3,711,445 in October 2019.

The company's load factor fell 29.4 percentage points to 65.9%. Its shares though were up 5.1% to £34.52

Tobacco giant British American Tobacco said its US business had acquired the nicotine pouch product assets of Dryft Sciences, a US-based modern oral nicotine product company.

The acquired products would be sold under the company's global modern oral nicotine brand, VELO, boosting its offering from 4 to 28 product variants.

'The addition of Dryft to our US Velo brand is a major step forward, further enhancing our successful vaping and oral portfolio,' the company said in a note. The shares move 1% higher to £24.89.

Defence company Chemring said it expected annual adjusted operating profit to be at the top end of current market expectations following a strong end to the year. The current range of analyst expectations for adjusted operating profit for 2020 is within a range of £47 million to £53 million.

Net debt at year end is now expected to be approximately £48 million, down from £75.7 million on-year. Its shares were up 5.3% to 273p.

Office space operator IWG reported a fall in third-quarter revenue, though said it was starting to see improved sales activity. In the three months to 30 September 2020, revenue fell 10.1% to £583.3 million year-on-year and revenue across its open centres decreased 5.5% at constant currency.

The company said good sales activity levels in July, August and September, was offset by customer churn and the significant impact the pandemic had on service revenue, which historically accounts for approximately 28% of total revenue.

The shares rallied 8.7% to 277p.

Cruise company Carnival Corporation said its North American cruise line brands would extend their existing pause in operations, suspending cruise voyages until the end of the year. The US fleet includes five brands: Cunard North America, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn. The shares nudged 5.4p higher at 883p.


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