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Frasers raises guidance; Orbex funding; GDP data

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4.30pm: London higher on oil surge

The FTSE 100 was boosted by Brexit-wounded sterling and the price of Brent crude topping $50 a barrel for the first time since early March.

The pound fell to $1.3285 from $1.3382 at the close as the Brexit talks remained unresolved.

But oil rose, giving the index of blue chip shares a lift. It closed up 35.47 points, or 0.5%, at 6,599.76.

BP ended the session as top performer, up 4.5%, while Royal Dutch Shell ‘A’ and ‘B’ shares rallied 3.7% and 3.8% respectively.

Ocado, the online retailer, closed 7.2% lower despite reporting “exceptional” demand in the fourth quarter.

Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct and Jenners, rallied 13% in the FTSE 250 after reporting interim profit growth (see below).

9am: Stocks edge up

London stocks edged higher in early trade as sterling slid on the back of the sluggish Brexit talks, with the deadline now extended to Sunday.

The FTSE 100 rose 37,53 points (0.57%) to 6,601.82 while the pound was down 0.6% against the dollar 1.3322 and 0.7% lower against the euro at 1.1018.

7.30am: Support for Money Dashboard

Money Dashboard, the personal finalist assistant, will receive £125,000 from the Nesta Rapid Recovery Challenge that aims to improve access to jobs and deliver financial support to those impacted by Covid-19.

The £3m Challenge is funded by Nesta, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Money and Pensions Service. 

7am: Frasers raises guidance

House of Fraser Glasgow

Retail conglomerate Frasers Group raised full year profit guidance as it reported interim pre-tax profits rose 17.6% to £106.1m on a 7.4% fall in revenue to £1.9bn.

Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came in at £226.3m, compared with £181.2m a year earlier.

Economy slows

The UK economy grew by just 0.4% in October as the recovery faltered following the latest lockdowns, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Output is expected to shrink again in November after England’s second shutdown forced firms to close.

The ONS said there had been some areas of growth during October but the UK economy “still remains around 8% below its pre-pandemic peak”.

“Public services output increased, while car manufacturing continued to recover and retail again grew strongly,” said ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow.

“However, the reintroduction of some restrictions saw services growth hit, with large falls in hospitality, meaning the economy overall grew only modestly.”

FirstGroup

The transport group announced a half year statutory operating loss of £16.4m (H1 2019: loss of £118.1m).

Tui losses

TUI posted an annual loss of €3 billion as the pandemic choked travel demand and finances of the world’s biggest holiday group.

The Germany-based company said it will raise its cost-cutting targets to €400 million annually from €300 million to help pay off new debts taken on to survive the pandemic crisis.

Orbex secures satellite funding

Small-sat launch firm Orbex, based in Moray, has secured $24 million, further securing the company’s plans to launch from mainland Scotland in 2022.

The investment round was  led by BGF, the UK’s most active investment company, and Octopus Ventures, one of the largest VCs in Europe.

Orbex has already confirmed six commercial satellite launch contracts. The company’s preferred launch site will be the Sutherland spaceport on the northernmost coast of Scotland, which was granted planning permission in mid-August 2020.

Markets

The FTSE 100 was set to open slightly lower as the Brexit transition deadline creeps closer without a deal in sight.

CFD and spreadbetting firm IG Markets sees London’s bluechip benchmark down around 11 points, making the price 6,562 to 6,565.

“The fact that Prime Minister Boris Johnson felt it worthwhile to travel to Brussels to dine with EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, does offer some hope that there will be a positive outcome from what have been some tortuous negotiation,” said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.

All main Wall Street indices fell on Wednesday as Republicans and Democrats continue drag their heels on a stimulus package.

The Dow Jones was down 105 points or 0.35% while the S&P 500 gave up 0.79% and the Nasdaq fell 1.94%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei was trading 0.23% lower whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.51% to 26,371.



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