UK shares rise on hopes of coronavirus crisis easing


Britain’s stock markets looked set to post weekly gains on Thursday, as investors pinned hopes on the COVID-19 crisis nearing a peak.

The blue-chip index .FTSE rose 0.67%. Shares in Just Eat Takeaway (JETJ.L), an online food ordering and delivery company, surged 9% to the top of the index after saying total orders for the group jumped 50% in the first quarter.

Stock markets globally have gained this week amid signs that coronavirus death toll was levelling off in the U.S. hotspot of New York and receding in hard-hit regions of Europe.

New York state set another single-day record of COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, but officials pointed to a drop in new hospitalizations as evidence that social-distancing curbs were “bending the curve.”

“The market is taking generous view of the situation even in the face of what is growing to be an employment crisis in the United States,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx in London.

Investors braced for another surge in U.S. weekly jobless claims, with numbers in the last three weeks expected to total a staggering 15 million.

“If the OPEC+ does not produce a deal and there’s a bad jobs number this afternoon, then that could be pushing things into red,” Campbell said.

Shares in BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.l rose marginally ahead of an OPEC+ meeting where the world’s largest oil producers are expected to agree to cut production.

Among midcap stocks, homebuilder Redrow (RDW.L) surged 6.7% after winning approval for the Bank of England’s coronavirus emergency financing scheme and said talks with six banks to secure additional funds were progressing well.

Fellow housebuilders Barratt Development (BDEV.L), Persimmon (PSN.L) and Taylor Wimpey (TW.L) gained between 4% and 5.6%.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the number of infections and hospital admissions are beginning to show signs of flattening, a medical director of the National Health Service said on Wednesday.

The domestically focused midcaps index .FTMC, which has underperformed the blue-chip and small cap companies since the rout started in February, added 1%, and was on track for its biggest weekly percentage gain.

Diageo Plc (DGE.L), the world’s largest spirits maker, rose 3% even as it withdrew its earnings outlook and suspended a capital returns plan in response to the pandemic.

Frankie and Benny’s chain owner Restaurant Group (RTN.L) rose 6.3% after it proposed a share placement to cushion the hit from challenges related to the coronavirus.

Rail and coach ticketing company Trainline (TRNT.L) rose 4.1% after saying it would cut costs and capital spending.