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Jobless figure mounts; AG Barr ahead of guidance

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4.30pm London closed higher

The FTSE 100 eked out a small gain, rising 15.16 points to close at 6,654.01.

2.45pm: S&P hits new record

The S&P 500 hit a record high at the open on Wall Street, helped by positive earnings updates from a number of companies including General Electric and Johnson & Johnson, while the Federal Reserve kicked off its two-day policy meeting.

8.30am: FTSE edges higher

Stocks in London rose after drugmaker AstraZeneca denied reports that its COVID-19 vaccine was less effective in the elderly population, while Indivior surged after its former parent withdrew a $1.4 billion legal claim.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index climbed nearly 40 points (0.6%) to 6,678.78 with healthcare stocks leading the gains.

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7.15am: Jobs data

More than 200,000 people across the UK lost their jobs in the quarter to November as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll.

The UK’s unemployment rate edged up to 5%, to reach its highest level since 2016.

An estimated 1.72 million people were unemployed, the Office for National Statistics said.

That was 418,000 more than in the same period the previous year and up 202,000 from the previous three months.

It was also the biggest annual increase in unemployment since the three months to December 2009, during the global financial crisis.

Scotland’s unemployment rate estimate fell over to 4.4%, but payroll figures caused alarm.

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “HMRC early estimates for December 2020 for Scotland, show that there were 2.3 million payrolled employees in Scotland , increasing by 9,000 compared with November, however 67,000 lower than a year ago.

“These figures still do not reflect the full impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) or outlook for employment as the Job Retention Scheme continues to play an important role in supporting employers and employees. Combined with the huge economic uncertainty caused by Brexit, this remains an extremely uncertain time for the economy and jobs.”

Irn-Bru

7am: AG Barr ahead

Soft drinks manufacturer AG Barr said revenue for the year is expected to be c. £227m (2019/20 : £255.7m), marginally ahead of the revised guidance issued in July 2020 and reconfirmed in the interim results announced in September 2020.

In the first 4 months of the second half trading was at the upper end of its scenario plans. 

“However, COVID-19 developments since early December 2020, in particular increased social restrictions across the UK and the entry into full lockdown in January 2021, are now having an impact, most notably in the hospitality and “drink now” categories,” it said.

Rolls-Royce

Engineering group Rolls-Royce said trading in December was broadly in line with expectations across all business units and the company delivered good progress on its restructuring programme.

Full year 2020 Group free cash outflow was in line with previous guidance, and in-year cash cost savings of more than £1 billion were achieved from mitigating actions. Year-end liquidity was approximately £9 billion, at the upper end of the previously guided range.

Quiz swings to underlying loss

Scottish fashion chain Quiz said it will withstand the closure of Debenhams stores and the uncertainty over Arcadia where it has a number of concessions.

Full story here

JD Sports

The retailer has confirmed that it is exploring additional funding options with a view to increasing its flexibility to invest in future strategic opportunities and that this may involve a non pre-emptive equity placing.  A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate.

Markets

The FTSE 100 was expected to make a hesitant start following the announcement on job figures.

London’s blue chip closed down 56 points or 0.8% at 6,638.85.

Overnight, Wall Street had a mixed time, with the Dow Jones index falling 37 points or 0.1% while the S&P 500 rose 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.7% to reach another record close.

The tech-fuelled Nasdaq was boosted by trader optimism over the start of earnings season for big tech, starting this evening with Microsoft and tomorrow with Apple, Tesla and Facebook.



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