The FTSE 100 managed to stay above 7000 as a shopping bounce lifted shares in major retailers.
Britons were out spending with a vengeance last week when non-essential stores were allowed to reopen in England and Wales, according to data group Springboard, with footfall across the UK up by almost 90 per cent compared with the previous seven days.
The encouraging numbers were a relief for City analysts concerned that online shopping and new savings habits might have dampened enthusiasm for returning to stores.
Spending spree: Shoppers flood back onto Oxford Street in central London last week. Footfall across the UK up by almost 90 per cent compared with the previous seven days
Primark-owner Associated British Foods surged 1.3 per cent, or 32p, to 2460p, as investors also snapped up shares ahead of the release of half-year results today.
B&Q owner Kingfisher (up 1.5 per cent, or 5.4p, to 360.7p) and budget chain B&M (up 1.8 per cent, or 10p, to 568.6p) were among the big winners yesterday – as even though they had been able to open during the most recent lockdown they are likely to be welcoming more people now.
Though it was supermarkets Sainsbury’s (up 2.4 per cent, or 6p, to 254.7p) and Ocado (up 2.1 per cent, or 45p, to 2226p) that led the charge on the blue-chip index.
Stock Watch – Genedrive
Genedrive rose after it made it on to a Public Health England list of approved suppliers for two types of specialist tests.
Hospitals and other health bodies can strike deals with the diagnostics company to provide Covid tests and screen for potential hearing loss in newborn babies.
But Manchester-based Genedrive has not sealed any new deals since being put on the list.
Shares in the group, which has surged in value since the start of the pandemic, rose 7.5 per cent, or 5p, to 72p.
The rises all helped the Footsie cling onto most of the gains it made last week, when it edged above the psychologically important 7000-mark for the first time since the pandemic struck. It closed down 0.3 per cent, or 19.45 points last night, but finished at 7000.08.
The effect of the latest round of reopenings also boosted Marks & Spencer (up 3.6 per cent, or 5.6p, to 162.1p) and train station cafe group SSP (up 3.2 per cent, or 9.6p, to 312.6p), which is benefiting from the return of non-essential travel.
But the wider mid-cap FTSE 250 index closed down 0.1 per cent, or 31.32 points, to 22490.86.
And it was a mixed reception for pub and restaurant chains.
Shares in All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers (down 0.5 per cent, or 1.6p, to 308.6p) and Wetherspoons (down 1.5 per cent, or 21p, to 1363p) lost their fizz, despite the sunny weekend and a scramble to book pub tables all over the nation.
But Marston’s (up 0.6pc, or 0.55p, to 97.05p), Fuller’s (up 2.2 per cent, or 20p, to 922p) and Wagamama operator The Restaurant Group (up 0.7 per cent, or 0.8p, to 124.6p) were all in demand.
Any uplift from the weekend for cider and beer maker C&C, on the other hand, was washed out by the announcement that one of its subsidiaries, drinks supplier Matthew Clark Bibendum, had suffered a cyber attack.
C&C, whose brands include the popular cider Magners, said it became aware of the incident on Friday and swiftly shut down all the connected IT systems.
But shares fell 0.9 per cent, or 2.6p, to 279.6p, even as it said the attack had not affected the rest of the group. Investors were also wary of plans by the group formerly known as Stobart to sell off its airline business and one of its airports.
Esken dropped 0.7 per cent, or 0.25p, to 35.2p after it said it was in ‘advanced talks’ to sell its stake in Stobart Air to Ettyl, a company based in the Isle of Man.
Esken has been eyeing an exit from the airline – which it bought back from bankruptcy last April – for some time but the pair are also discussing a deal for Carlisle Airport, on the edge of the Lake District.
Although it is not well-known, the airline operates services for KLM Cityhopper, Aer Lingus and BA Cityflyer.
Johnson Matthey was treading water – falling 0.4 per cent, or 12p, to 3198p – after it partnered with Finland’s state mining company to develop an electric battery plant.
The FTSE 100 firm has been trying to gain a foothold in new technology such as batteries as the market for its traditional petrol and diesel catalytic converters business dwindles.
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