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Important information: The value of investments can go down as well as up so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This is a third-party news feed and may not reflect Fidelity’s views.

London midday: Stocks flatten out as recruiters slump on Hays warning

(Sharecast News) - London stocks had pared gains by midday on Tuesday to trade flat, with recruiters under the cosh after a profit warning from Hays. The FTSE 100 was steady at 7,694.93.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said investors appeared to be "in a holding pattern until we get the next round of [US] inflation and jobs figures which provide the all-important clues as to central bank interest rate decisions".

On home shores, industry data showed that retailers ended 2023 on the back foot despite a modest uptick in demand in the week leading up to Christmas.

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK total sales increased by just 1.7% in the five weeks to 30 December, compared to a 6.9% rise a year previously.

The increase was below the three-month average of 2.3%, and the 12-month average of 3.6%.

December is the most important month of the year for many retailers, as consumers splash out on homewares, presents and festive food.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said there had been a "slight" uptick in the week leading up to Christmas.

But she added: "The festive period failed to make amends for a challenging year of sluggish retail sales growth, as weak consumer confidence continue to hold back spending.

"The post-Christmas sales were unsuccessful in enticing spend in areas such as furniture and homewares, with households remaining cautious about making larger purchases.

"2024 looks to be another challenging year for retailers and their customers, and spending will continue to be constrained by high living costs."

In equity markets, B&M European Value Retail reversed earlier losses to trade up, after it reiterated full-year guidance, declared a special dividend and posted a 5% jump in third-quarter sales.

The discount retailer said it still expects group adjusted EBITDA of between £620m and £630m for FY24, up from £573m a year earlier.

GSK gained as it announced the acquisition of Aiolos, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on treatment of respiratory and inflammatory conditions, for up to $1.4bn.

On the downside, recruiter Hays tumbled as it warned on profits after a hiring slowdown in December.

In an update for the three months to the end of December, the company said group net fees were down 10%, having fallen 15% in December.

As a result, and despite ongoing actions to reduce costs, it now expects first-half pre-exceptional operating profit of around £60m, which is below consensus expectations of around £73m.

Fellow recruiters PageGroup and SThree also lost ground.

Jupiter Fund Management suffered heavy losses as it warned that net outflows for 2023 would be higher than expected and announced the departure of veteran portfolio manager Ben Whitmore.

Warhammer maker Games Workshop fell even as it posted a sharp increase in half-year profits driven by the launch of new products and said the company was "in great shape".

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,694.93 0.01% FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,311.61 -0.42% techMARK (TASX) 4,311.47 0.30%

FTSE 100 - Risers

BAE Systems (BA.) 1,162.50p 1.53% BP (BP.) 467.35p 1.28% Centrica (CNA) 157.40p 1.22% B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 568.00p 1.10% GSK (GSK) 1,565.40p 1.06% Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 770.40p 1.05% Reckitt Benckiser Group (RKT) 5,564.00p 0.87% Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV (PSH) 3,514.00p 0.86% Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,878.00p 0.86% Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,079.50p 0.84%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Beazley (BEZ) 532.00p -3.62% JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 115.65p -3.10% Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,575.50p -2.05% Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 284.80p -1.96% RS Group (RS1) 772.20p -1.83% Kingfisher (KGF) 227.10p -1.73% International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 149.80p -1.67% Standard Chartered (STAN) 640.60p -1.45% WPP (WPP) 760.40p -1.40% Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 146.30p -1.32%

FTSE 250 - Risers

W.A.G Payment Solutions (WPS) 93.00p 2.65% Harbour Energy (HBR) 302.50p 2.61% Me Group International (MEGP) 130.00p 2.36% Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 1,835.00p 2.34% Genus (GNS) 2,182.00p 2.06% Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 86.00p 1.90% Ashmore Group (ASHM) 216.40p 1.88% Bellevue Healthcare Trust (Red) (BBH) 153.00p 1.86% Auction Technology Group (ATG) 480.50p 1.80% Scottish American Inv Company (SAIN) 522.00p 1.75%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 74.65p -15.65% Hays (HAS) 97.75p -9.24% Pagegroup (PAGE) 446.80p -4.86% SThree (STEM) 395.50p -4.24% Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 219.40p -3.52% Bridgepoint Group (Reg S) (BPT) 257.20p -2.94% FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 440.50p -2.76% Darktrace (DARK) 322.40p -2.72% Persimmon (PSN) 1,417.00p -2.54% IP Group (IPO) 54.00p -2.53%

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Important information: This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice. When you are thinking about investing in shares, it’s generally a good idea to consider holding them alongside other investments in a diversified portfolio of assets. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

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