By Barbara Kollmeyer
London stocks were rising in holiday-thinned trading on Friday, the last session before an extended Christmas break.
The FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.39% rose 0.3% at 7,399, and was up around 1.8% week to date. Year to date, the index has gained 14%. The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD -0.5561% was steady at $1.3407. The London Stock Exchange will close around midday, and remain closed until Wednesday. U.S. markets are closed Friday, and will reopen on Monday.
“The U.K. index is enjoying its fourth day of gains, trading at six-week highs and inching closer to the next major resistance hurdle at 7,400,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, in a note to clients. Gains for banks, pharmaceutical groups, miners and energy names were supporting the main index.
Looking back at some of the year’s best performers, Scholar highlighted Ashtead /zigman2/quotes/200232063/delayed UK:AHT -1.81% . Shares of the industrial equipment rental company are up more than 70%, outperforming the FTSE 100 and the best performer on the FTSE 350 UK:NMX +1.65% over the past decade, she said, citing data from Refinitiv.
“It reported a record performance in its latest earnings and upgraded its full-year guidance with rental revenue benefiting from the global economic reopening this year,” said the strategist. Ashtead shares slipped 0.4% on Friday.
At the other end was online grocer and logistics group Ocado, “despite kicking off the year on a positive note after 2020’s outperformance for the stay-at-home basket,” she said . “The stock is down almost 40% since the peak in February as the reopening trade hit food delivery businesses.” Ocado /zigman2/quotes/207225647/delayed UK:OCDO -2.37% shares rose 1.7% on Friday.
Travel stocks continued to rise, repeating action seen through much of the week, with International Consolidated Airlines /zigman2/quotes/208070069/delayed UK:IAG -3.63% up 2.3%, while InterContinental Hotels /zigman2/quotes/204459500/composite IHG -1.59% /zigman2/quotes/202865596/delayed UK:IHG -1.88% rose 1.8%. Shares of TUI /zigman2/quotes/207049334/delayed UK:TUI -6.59% , Carnival /zigman2/quotes/210414141/delayed UK:CCL -8.48% and easyJet /zigman2/quotes/202825892/delayed UK:EZJ -5.72% were up 2.5% or more each.
That’s even amid holiday travel disruptions due to industrial action on some trains, and a spread of COVID-19 among essential workers. In the U.S., United Airlines /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL -7.56% and Delta /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL -6.22% have already canceled dozens of flights over the weekend, partly due to cases impacting crews .
A preliminary study from the U.K. Health Security Agency released Thursday showed the omicron variant of the coronavirus resulted in 50% to 70% fewer hospitalizations than delta. However, it also showed that vaccine boosters began to wane after roughly 10 weeks, though protection against hospitalizations and severe disease is believed to hold up.
The U.K. saw another record breaking cases on Thursday, with 119,789 reported. Contagion fears have hit the hospitality sector hard due to cancellations of holiday parties and gatherings. The government may announce new restrictions after the Christmas break.