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FTSE 100 falls as Unilever report underwhelms

Stock Markets Apr 23, 2020 09:20
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By Devik Jain and Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) - FTSE 100 fell on Thursday as consumer giant Unilever said the coronavirus lockdown measures took a toll on its quarterly sales, setting a cautious tone ahead of bleak business activity readings.

On a busy day for earnings and economic data, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index (FTSE) dipped 0.5%, while the domestically focused FTSE 250 index (FTMC) gained 0.1%.

Shares in Unilever Plc (L:ULVR) (AS:UNc) dropped 5.2% after the company pulled its full-year forecast, and added that a sharp decline in shopping and restaurant trips in China during the first-quarter offset gains from consumers stockpiling in Europe and North America. [nL3N2CB1GT]

The dour report pulled down shares in Reckitt Benckiser (L:RB) by 1.3%.

"Expectations that they should have seen some panic-buy demand brought forward wasn't seen," Mark Taylor, sales trader at Mirabaud Securities wrote in a note.

"They kept dividend but flat sales will be disappointing."

Investors awaited UK flash PMI readings, due at 0830 GMT, with a Reuters poll forecasting business activity contracted at the fastest rate by far in April since the survey began over 20 years ago. The index is expected to drop to 31.4 points.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (STOXX) gave up its early gains to trade 0.4% lower as a survey showed business activity in Germany and France suffered record falls due to the coronavirus outbreak and measures to contain it. [nZRN000BRX][nZRN000BRT]

The FTSE 100 has recovered nearly 18% since mid-March lows, buoyed by the trillions of dollars injected by major central banks and governments to soften the economic blow of the pandemic.

However, hopes of an immediate lifting of daily-life restrictions in UK looked bleak, as the death toll rose to 17,377. [nL4N2AY3AS]

Online food ordering service Just Eat (LON:JE) Takeaway.com (AS:TKWY) (L:JETJ) fell 3.5% after it announced share and convertible bond issue to shore up its finances as Britain's competition watchdog gave the company's merger final approval. [nL5N2CB2AQ][nL5N2CB2B7]

Among gainers, homebuilder Taylor Wimpey (L:TW) rose 3.5% after it posted a solid year-on-year rise in orders and said it continued to sell houses virtually despite the shutdown. [nL3N2CB1HY]

Engineering company Meggitt (L:MGGT) jumped 6.5% after it recorded a 15% rise in its quarterly defence revenue, and said it would cut 1,800 jobs to save cash in the face of the health crisis. [nL5N2CB206]

FTSE 100 falls as Unilever report underwhelms
 

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