By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
London stocks were likely to break a three-week losing streak on Friday, as equities moved higher thanks to gains for pharmaceutical and utility shares.
The FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +2.04% rose 0.6% to 6,086.10, with the week’s gains up to Friday amounting to 0.4%, after last week’s decline of 1.7%. The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.2302% was flat against the dollar at $1.2599.
A 1.9% gain for heavily weighted AstraZeneca PLC /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +2.83% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN +2.95% and a near 3% gain for utility National Grid /zigman2/quotes/208805676/delayed UK:NG +4.10% helped boost the main FTSE 100 index.
While investors continued to watch rising coronavirus cases in the U.S., with worries about how that will slow any global economic recovery, the U.K. government announced Thursday that it will ease restrictions on leisure centers and indoor gyms.
Shares of Gym Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/204507584/delayed UK:GYM -2.71% slipped 1%, though the chain of gyms said it would reopen 160 sites across England. The company also said cancellations have slowed after a “significant number” of members did so earlier in the lockdown.
Shares of Restaurant Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/207518837/delayed UK:RTN -3.56% tumbled 11% though. A new survey released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics finds 60% of those in the U.K. would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable eating out, compared with just 21% who would be OK with it.
And according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker (CPBT) , pubs and restaurants saw a 45% drop in trade on the recent opening weekend. Managed pubs and bars that opened saw sales drop 44.7% below pre-COVID levels compared to the same weekend in 2019. Group-owned restaurants that were open fell 41.1%, said CPBT, in a press release .
“Trading at around 55% of pre-COVID norms may seem a disappointing result, and it won’t be profitable for operators, but it is very much in line with what we have seen in other markets,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM.