UK stocks erase gains on fears over US consumer

Writer, Stock Market Wire
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 16:39

UK stocks erased virtually all of their gains on Tuesday as investors turned from celebrating a string of earnings results to fearing for the health of the US consumer as trade talks failed to show signs of progress.

At the close the benchmark FTSE 100 index, which had gained as much as 91 points or 1.25% earlier in the day, was up just 6 points or 0.1% at 7,315.

US retailers Home Depot and Kohl's lowered their earnings outlook heading into the crucial Xmas trading period.

Leading the gainers on the FTSE was safety and inspection equipment supplier Halma which jumped 10% to a new all-time high of £20.75 after setting new half-year records for revenues, profits and dividends

Turnover and pre-tax profits both rose by 12% thanks to strong growth in all its geographic regions and all of its business units. The surge in the shares added more than £800m to Halma's market value.

Another stock making a new all-time high earlier on the session on the back of better than expected results was home services and repairs firm Homeserve. Having racked up a 7.7% gain earlier, the shares closed up 3.7% to £12.42.

It was the same story at asset manager Intermediate Capital which gained 5.8% to a new all-time high earlier following stronger than expected results and growth in assets for the first half of the year. By the close the shares were up 2.5% to £15.31.

Shares in testing and certification firm Intertek rallied 3.9% to £55.14 as analysts at research firm Jefferies raised their view on the stock to Buy from Hold.

Instrumentation and controls company Spectris gained 5% to £27.27 despite reporting flat like-for-like sales in the four months through October against a tough comparative in the previous year.

Relieved investors chased shares in electrical-appliance retailer AO World up 16% to 66.2p after the firm booked a narrower first-half loss and announced it would close its loss-making Dutch business to focus on its UK and German operations.

Shares in EasyJet rose 5% to £13.40 after the budget carrier posted full year results in line with expectations and said it would become the world's first major airline to offset all of its emissions from flying.

Component supplier to the aerospace and defence sector Meggitt rose 1.2% to 637p, having secured a six-year requirements contract with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia worth as much as $130m.

Utility service provider Telecom Plus firmed 4% to a three-month high of £13.30 after it delivered a 9.2% rise in first-half profit driven by new customer additions.

Engineering group Melrose Industries eked out a 0.7% rise to 227p on the news that trading was in line with expectations for 2019, with sales rising at its aerospace division but falling at its automotive and powder metallurgy units.

Suit retailer Moss Bros added 1.2% to 21p after announcing that it had poached Ted Backer chief financial officer Bill Adams to be its new CFO.

Adams would replace Tony Bennett, who is standing down for personal reasons, from February. Ted Baker shares rose 3% to 389p.

FALLERS FEW AND FAR BETWEEN

Water and climate management group Polypipe fell 1.6% to 469p as it guided for an annual underlying operating profit 'just below' its previous expectations.

Self-storage group Big Yellow shed 3.4% to £11.51, even as it reported a 6% rise in adjusted first-half profit.

Payments group Equiniti had a tough day all round, sinking 15% to 194p after it forecast operating earnings toward the bottom end of market expectations owing to 'weaker higher-margin UK corporate activity'.