FTSE sees modest fall after US tech sell-off


The FTSE 100 was down 0.3% to 6,591.85 by midday after a sell-off in the US tech sector overnight. US futures suggested losses would be extended slightly when trading resumes on Wall Street later.

The UK unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in the three months through December, as expected, up from 5.0% previously.

Banking giant HSBC fell 2.2% to 422.3p as it reported a 34% drop in annual profit owing to higher credit losses and lower interest rates.

HSBC resumed dividends with a 15c per share payout and said it would assume a payout ratio of between 40% and 55% of reported earnings per share.

Life insurer Aviva added 0.2% to 375.6p, having sold its French unit to Aema Groupe for €3.2 billion as part of a plan to focus on its UK, Ireland and Canada businesses.

The deal covered Aviva's French life, general insurance, and asset management businesses and its 75% stake in UFF5.

Hotel chain Intercontinental Hotels surrendered earlier gains to trade 0.9% lower at £52.62, even after it reported a deep annual loss as sales were hammered by the pandemic's impact on the tourism sector.

Intercontinental Hotels paid no dividends for 2020, but said it was eyeing a recovery in trading later in the year amid the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Investment manager Standard Life Aberdeen fell 1.8% to 320.5p on news that it would acquire investment platform businesses from insurer Phoenix for £62.5 million, while extending and simplifying their existing relationship.

Standard Life Aberdeen also would sell the 'Standard Life' brand to Phoenix during the course of 2021, but pay Phoenix another £32 million in return for it bearing the cost of transferring staff.

Frasers, formerly Sport Direct, firmed 1.1% to 465.2p despite warning of a non-cash writedown of more than £100 million.

The sportswear and equipment retailer pinned the writedown on the impact of the current lockdown and shift in consumer behaviour to online shopping.

Sub-prime lender Non-Standard Finance gained 17.8% to 4.14p, even after it said that it was planning a 'substantial' equity raising to support growth, avoid covenant breaches and address uncertainties about remaining a going concern.

Non-Standard Finance said it had commenced planning work on the raising with the support of largest shareholder Alchemy, with a view to completing it in the second quarter of 2021.