Market report

STV lottery sale | car output falls | Hays resumes payout


5pm: Shares edge lower

London shares spent the day under water as traders awaited the outcome of tomorrow’s Jackson Hole symposium.

The FTSE 100 closed 25.14 points lower at 7,124.98.

Scottish packaging group Macfarlane rose 16p or 13.39% to 135.5p after reporting a 120% rise in pre-tax profits for the first half of the year.

2pm: GDP on fast track

GDP in Scotland should increase by 10.5% this year and return to pre-Covid levels next summer, almost two years earlier than previously anticipated, according to the Scottish Fiscal Commission.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes hailed the forecast of faster growth as “tremendously good news” adding that it “illustrates the underlying resilience and strengths of Scotland’s economy”

However, SFC chair Dame Susan Rice warned that there are “still risks to recovery”.

8.05am: Market opens lower

Shares in London slipped into negative territory as forecast. The FTSE 100 was trading about 40 points lower at 7,110.31.

Shares in Macfarlane Group soared 17.5p (14.64%) to 137p, hitting a 52-week high of 139.5p, after half-year profits soared by 120% (see below).

7.45am: Car production slumps

UK car factories posted their worst performance for July since 1956, official figures show.

Only 53,438 vehicles were manufactured last month, a 37.6% fall on the same month last year.

A global shortage of microchips and staff absences due to the ‘pindemic’ are blamed for driving the crash in production figures.

Overall production figures for 2021 are up by just 18.3% (552,361 cars) year on year. Compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, figures are down by 28.7%.

7am: Macfarlane profits double

Macfarlane lorry

Glasgow-based Macfarlane Group, the UK’s largest supplier of protective packaging, more than doubled half-year pre-tax profits to £7.8m (2020: £3.5m) on turnover up 26.5% to £133.5m.

The board said the outlook for 2021 will be ahead of previous expectations.

Full story here

7am: Hays resumes dividend payments

Recruitment agency Hays said it was resuming dividend payments as it hailed a “strong” recovery in full-year fee and profit growth.

In the year to the end of June, pre-tax profit rose 2% to £88.1 million. Net fees fell 8% to £918.1m but the company said trading improved through the year, with strong growth in all regions.

First-half fees were down 24% but second-half fees rose 13% and the fourth quarter saw a 39% increase. Hays said it saw its strongest group fee performance in June since the start of the pandemic.

The board proposes a single dividend payment of 1.22p a share for FY21 and a special dividend of 8.93p per share.

Chief executive Alistair Cox said: “Overall, the strength of the recovery has been dramatic. We now see a clear route back to, and then exceeding, pre-pandemic levels of profit, faster than we envisaged even six months ago.

7am: STV completes lottery sale

STV has completed the sale of its external lottery management company –announced in March – following approval from the UK Gambling Commission. 

The sale will enable the group to focus exclusively on the ongoing delivery of STV’s strategic growth plan, it said.

The transaction combines a “modest consideration” for the business with a multi-year advertising contract.

A full trading update will be provided with half-year figures on 9 September.

Global markets

London was expected to open lower as Wall Street was relatively quiet ahead of the Jackson Hole symposium tomorrow when traders will be looking for direction on tapering of stimulus measures.

The Dow Jones added just 0.1% whilst the S&P 500 was marked up 0.2% and the Nasdaq moved 0.15% into positive territory.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei was down slightly whilst Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 1.4% and the Shanghai Composite dipped 0.6%.

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