Market report

Equity market dips on Omicron concerns


5pm: Market lower on virus

The FTSE 100 opened the session higher after the Omicron warning weakened sterling, but broader concerns saw it suffer its worst day this month and close down 60.34 points at 7,231.44.

The biggest fallers were British Airways owner IAG, down 7p to 130.3p, United Utilities, down 6p to 116.94p, Lloyds, down 2p to 44.35p, Entain, down 61p to 1,572p, and Whitbread, down 101p to 2,797p.

In a statement after the market closed, National Westminster Bank, trading north of the border as Royal Bank of Scotland, said it has been fined £264.8 million at a hearing at Southwark Crown Court for three offences under the money laundering regulations. Its shares fell 1.6p or 0.74% to 214.25p. Full story here.

Shares in online estate agency Purplebricks Group plunged 20.89% (6.6p) to 24.8p after it revealed potential exposure to millions of pounds in claims and delayed Tuesday’s half-year results. Full story here.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon warned of hit to first half profits, blaming what it called “arbitrary” Covid rule changes by the UK government.

In a trading update, Wetherspoon said “uncertainty, and the introduction of radical changes of direction by the government, make predictions for sales and profits hazardous”.

Chairman Tim Martin said: “The repeated warnings and calls for restrictions, mainly from Sage [committee] members and academics, combined with arbitrary changes of direction from the government, invariably at short notice, affect customer sentiment and trade.

“In effect, the country appears to be heading towards a lockdown by stealth.”

4.45pm: NatWest fined

National Westminster Bank, trading north of the border as Royal Bank of Scotland, has been fined £264.8 million at a hearing at Southwark Crown Court for three offences under the money laundering regulations.

Full story here

9.30am: Market opens higher

The FTSE 100 was trading at 7,303.66, up 11.88 points.

7am: Purplebricks delays figures

Online estate agency Purplebricks Group has delayed tomorrow’s half-year results after revealing potential exposure to millions of pounds in claims.

The AIM-quoted firm’s shares have already taken a hammering after it warned the market of worse-than-expected figures on the back of challenging trading conditions.

Full story here

7am SAE sells GHR

Simec Atlantis Energy has sold its Perth-based subsidiary Green Highlands Renewables (GHR) in a £3m deal to German energy group VH Auslandsbeteiligungen (VHA).

GHR has developed and commissioned more than 50 hydro schemes across Scotland.

Under the terms of the transaction, VHA will acquire a 90% interest in GHR and Mr Alex Reading, who was general Manager of GHR until 9 December 2021, will acquire the remaining shares.

Full story here

7am: Cairn name change

Further to the announcement of 3 November, Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy becomes Capricorn Energy from today. The LSE stock ticker remains as CNE.

Global markets

While Asia’s main markets took note of Boris Johnson’s warning of a tidal wave of Omicron cases but the momentum across the region was largely positive.

Attention in the UK is focused on Thursday’s meeting of the Bank of England‘s monetary policy committee which will decide if there is to be any increase in the interest rate.

Oil prices extended their rally as investor appetite improved amid growing relief the Omicron coronavirus variant may not cause severe illness and will likely have a limited impact on global fuel demand, says the Reuters agency.

Brent futures climbed this morning by 94 cents, or 1.3%, to $76.09 a barrel, after rising 1% on Friday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) gained $1.05, or 1.5%, to $72.72 a barrel, following a 1% increase in the previous session.

Both benchmarks posted gains of about 8% last week, their first weekly gain in seven. They have recovered more than half the losses suffered since Omicron headlines first hit Nov. 25.

“There was a growing sense of relief as the risk of serious illness in the Omicron was seen as low,” said Tatsufumi Okoshi, senior economist at Nomura Securities.

Investors are closely watching the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, at their next meeting on 4 January. They agreed earlier this month to stick to their existing policy of monthly oil output increases.

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