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Biden boost for Dow; Pets At Home; Compass; Devro; Enquest
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4.30pm: Biden marks new landmark as Dow hits record
President-elect Joe Biden crossed a historic milestone by receiving 80 million votes, more than any candidate in US presidential elections – helping the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new record on Wall Street.
Mr Biden and running mate Kamala Harris’s vote total exceeds Donald Trump’s by more than six million votes, and his lead as a percentage has grown to 51 to 47%.
The Dow Jones, which plunged 35% at the height of the pandemic, hit 30,000 for the first time.
It was driven also by market bullishness around solid earnings and coronavirus vaccine optimism.
European markets also rode the positive news. The FTSE 100 closed at 6,432.17, closing 98.33 points (1.55%) higher.
9am: Check Point becomes FinTech partner
Check Point Software Technologies, a global provider of cyber-security solutions, has become a strategic partner of FinTech Scotland.
Traders pushed equities higher, with travel and leisure stocks underpinned by vaccine optimism and news of a shortened travel quarantine from next month. The FTSE 100 was up 0.6% at 6,373.47.
The mood was also brightened by news that the Donald Trump administration has accepted President-elect Joe Biden’s transition into office.
7am: Pets At Home benefits from lockdown
Rising levels of pet ownership by stay-at-home workers helped pet product retailer and veterinary group Pets at Home post a 14% rise in first-half profit to £38.9 million.
This compared to £34 million last time as revenue grew 5.1% to £574.4 million.
The interim dividend is steady at 2.5p per share. On its outlook, Pets at Home said it expected to post a flat underlying pre-tax profit for the full year, assuming no escalation of Covid-19 restrictions or other unexpected disruptions.
Chief executive Peter Pritchard said: “n spite of the ongoing and wide-ranging impact of Covid-19, there is much to be optimistic about,
“The market in which we operate remains resilient, with recent changes to our work and leisure patterns supporting rising levels of pet ownership, a good proxy for future growth in both the underlying market and our business.”
Phoenix ponders Europe sale
Life insurer Phoenix Group has confirmed it is considering a sale of its European businesses after receiving expressions of interest from a number of potential buyers.
Catering company Compass Group reported a 75% slump in pretax profit to £427 million for the year ended 30 September from £1.74 billion last time after a difficult year that saw parts of the business closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The catering giant 2020 operating profit was down on last year’s £1,852m. Nearly two-thirds of Compass Group’s revenue came from north America.
Enquest in line with guidance
Amjad Bseisu, chief executive of oil explorer EnQuest, said: “The group has delivered production in line with guidance year to date, with Kraken continuing to perform well.
“We expect production to be slightly below the mid-point of the 57,000 to 63,000 Boepd guidance range for the full year 2020, reflecting the impact of the unplanned outage at PM8/Seligi.
“We have continued to generate positive free cash flows in the period and have again made a voluntary early payment of $40 million against the April 2021 scheduled amortisation of our senior credit facility.
“We remain focused on cost control and capital discipline to maintain free cash flow breakeven at around $33/Boe in 2020.”
Devro forecast unchanged
Meat casings producer Devro said trading in the period remained robust, despite the impact of COVID-19 on the food service channel, with collagen volumes growing and Group operating margins improving. As a result, its expectations for the full year remain unchanged.
The Bellshill site closure and transfer of production lines to the Czech site remain on track.
Rutger Helbing, chief executive, said: “We continued to make good underlying progress in the period. While we expect market conditions to remain challenging for the rest of the year we remain on track to deliver against our expectations.
“All sites remain open and we continue to provide good service to our customers and fulfil our role in the food supply chain.”
Markets: Biden picks Yellen
Wall Street stocks closed higher after the Wall Street Journal reported US President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen, pictured, to be the next Treasury secretary and the first woman to hold the post. There were overnight indications that President Trump is ready to concede to his rival.
Another round of positive Covid-19 vaccine headlines also boosted optimism among traders.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 327.79 points or 1.12%, while the S&P 500 was 0.56% firmer. The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.22% up.
Asia-Pacific markets look set to follow the bullish US lead, with equity futures pointing to a higher start in Japan, Australia, Mainland China, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. The Nikkei 225 index jumped 2.3% as it reopened.
The FTSE 100 is expected to jump today after closing slightly in negative territory despite confirmation that some of the lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted.
The index closed at 6,333.84, down 17.61 (0.28%) as an update from AstraZeneca on its potential vaccine with the University of Oxford having a 70% efficacy rate failed to excite traders.