MARKET REPORT:  FTSE 250 powers to another record high

The FTSE 250 powered to a new record high yesterday, rising above the 24,000 mark for the first time, before dipping just back below the milestone.

On another upbeat day for savers with money in Britain’s mid-cap stocks, the index rose 100.36 points, or 0.42 per cent, to 23,986.37.

The rally took gains since last year’s Covid low to 87 per cent. By contrast, the FTSE 100 remains 9 per cent below its 2018 peak, after rising 24.34 points to 7150.12 yesterday.

New high: On another upbeat day for savers with money in Britain’s mid-cap stocks, the FTSE250 index rose 100.36 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 23,986.37

The FTSE 250 is seen as a better barometer of the British economy than the more-celebrated blue-chip index as its constituents are more domestically focused.

Among those leading the charge yesterday was Marks & Spencer – up 5.1 per cent, or 8.75p, to 179.45p – as it took its gains to more than 25 per cent in the four trading days since it issued its first profits upgrade of the century.

Investors have reacted enthusiastically to signs that a turnaround at M&S is materialising under chief executive Steve Rowe and chairman Archie Norman. 

Stock Watch – Velocys

Technology made by Velocys is set to be used in a major Japanese government-funded project to produce green jet fuels from hydrogen.

AIM-listed Velocys said its Fischer-Tropsch reactors – machines that turn waste into fuel – have been picked for the scheme. 

A consortium of six companies, led by Toyo Engineering, must show that eco-friendly alternatives can be made at scale.

Velocys still needs to formalise the provisional deal with Toyo. 

Shares in Velocys, which has cash from the likes of BA to design a sustainable flight plant in Lincolnshire, rose 5.3 per cent, or 0.25p, to 4.95p.

So too have scribblers in the City, with Deutsche Bank analysts putting a buy rating on stock, setting a target price of 195p a share, after upgrades from Credit Suisse and Berenberg 24 hours earlier.

There will no doubt be a spring in the step of the top brass at the M&S headquarters in Paddington as well as among staff and investors across the country.

Also up was Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group (up 3.8 per cent, or 3.82p, to 124.2p) and Rank, the group behind Mecca bingo halls and Grosvenor Casinos, which gained 4.3 per cent, or 7.4p, to 180p.

Back in the FTSE 100, shares in Ocado, whose partnership with M&S looks to have been a masterstroke, were also on the march, rising 2.9 per cent, or 57p, to 2049p. 

But Sainsbury’s slipped for a second day as the supermarket and potential suitors remained tight-lipped about a rumoured private equity buyout.

The shares soared more than 15pc on Monday following reports that a bid may be in the offing, but fell 5pc on Tuesday and 0.1 per cent, or 0.4p, to 323.1p yesterday.

ITV, fighting for its place in the FTSE 100 ahead of a reshuffle next month, rose 1.1 per cent, or 1.3p, to 116.45p. But with shares around 25 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, it may not be enough to stave off relegation to the FTSE 250.

Elsewhere, retail logistics giant Clipper posted a 39 per cent rise in revenues to £696.2million for the year to April 30 as it cashed in on an online shopping boom during the pandemic. 

Clipper has increased its workforce by around 2,000 to 10,000 over the year after demand continued to rise. It has done new deals with the likes of Revolution Beauty, JD Sports and H&M.

It added that pre-tax group profits rose to £21.7million for the year, compared with £16.2m in the previous year. 

Bosses also said they have introduced new incentives to staff in recent months, amid high demand for distribution workers. Shares rose 1.1 per cent, or 9p, to 821p.

Construction and engineering firm Costain is on track to meet expectations as it swung to a profit and grew revenue in the first half of the year. It expects to benefit over coming years from the Government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure including the HS2 rail project where it has a number of contracts.

It said pre-tax profit hit £9.1million in the six months to the end of June, up from a £92.3million loss a year earlier. 

Revenue rose 21 per cent to £556.8million, the business said. Shares dipped 2.1 per cent, or 1.3p, to 62p.

The owner of building materials supplier Selco posted a surge in half-year profits, but warned over supply chain disruption and soaring prices. 

Despite that, Grafton revealed sharply higher half-year profits for continuing operations, which jumped to £142.9million from £29.5million a year earlier on revenues up 46.1 per cent at £1billion. Shares rose 3.8 per cent, or 50p, to 1359p.