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FTSE 100 ends flat as Brexit weighs on vaccine deployment

vaccine

The FTSE 100 gained 3.43 points to finish at 6,558.82, while the FTSE 250 dropped to 19,870.49

UK stocks ended V-day flat as Britain began rolling out the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. The mood of investors continued to turn to Brexit and knife-edge talks that appear to be bogged down, with UK and EU negotiators struggling to agree terms on a deal.

Uncertainty in the US Congress over a possible financial stimulus deal also created reasons to be worried.

At the close on Tuesday, the FTSE 100 benchmark ended just 3.43 points higher at 6,558.82. The mid-cap FTSE 250, seen as a closer barometer of UK economic optimism, reversed 0.3% to 19,870.49.

In corporate news, equipment rental group Ashtead advanced 2.2% to £33 as the company upgraded its full year outlook following a ‘strong’ second quarter of market outperformance eased a pandemic-led impact on first half results.

Ferguson rose a modest 0.3% to £85.06 as the plumbing giant reported a rise in first quarter profit and revenue, driven by strong growth in the US and Canada.

Power utility National Grid rose 1.4% to 872.2p after British regulator Ofgem cut the amount of return on equity that transmission system operators can generate by less than feared.

National Grid said it was reviewing Ofgem’s final regulatory proposal, which will apply from April 2021 to March 2026.

Financial information provider Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) nudged up to £10.38 as it announced the acquisition of 50 of WealthEngine for $14.5 million.

WealthEngine is a software-as-a-service platform that offers intelligence and predictive analytics to wealth managers, luxury brands and not-for-profit organisations.

Digital value retailer Studio Retail (STU) lost much of its earlier momentum to close just 5% ahead at 276p after reporting strong trading ahead of Christmas and agreeing to a request from main shareholder  Frasers (FRAS)  that it should launch a strategic review and put itself up for sale.

With the other main shareholder Schroders (SDR) agreeing to the plan, Studio Retail is now ‘in play’, though it is unclear whether Mike Ashley-controlled Frasers will be interested in making a bid.

British lifestyle brand Joules added 1p to 171.7p on an upbeat trading update, with positive trading trends persisting through the Black Friday period and into the Christmas period so far thanks to strong online growth.

Given encouraging trading, Joules anticipates reporting first half pre-tax profits of between £3.5 million to £4 million and also ‘remains confident’ in meeting its full year expectations.

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