(Alliance News) - Stocks in London managed to end higher on Friday, getting a boost from bookmakers amid bid interest for William Hill, and despite the UK government's latest job market measures disappointing investors.
The FTSE 100 index closed up 19.89 points, or 0.3%, at 5,842.67, ending the week 3.4% lower.
The FTSE 250 index closed up 241.43 points, or 1.4%, at 17,044.12, ending the week down 4.1%. The AIM All-Share index closed up 13.51 points, or 1.4% at 954.33, ending the week down 1.7%.
The Cboe UK 100 index closed up 0.1% at 580.04. The Cboe 250 ended 1.1% higher at 14,412.58 and the Cboe Small Companies was flat at 9,020.09.
In Paris the CAC 40 ended down 0.7%, while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt lost 1.1%.
"The FTSE 100 is holding up alright in comparison with its eurozone equivalents, and this is because the British market underperformed yesterday - when the Winter Economic Plan was announced. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, mapped out plans to encourage employers to keep on furloughed workers but he cautioned that some businesses will go bust and there will be a jump in the jobless rate. It seems that the UK got its bad news out of the way yesterday," said CMC Markets analyst David Maden.
On the London Stock Exchange, bookmakers ended the best blue-chip performers, with GVC Holdings and Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainments up 17% and 6.8% respectively, amid M&A activity in the sector. Midcap peer 888 Holdings ended up 12%.
William Hill ended the standout performer in the FTSE 250, up 43%, after the high street bookmaker confirmed that it has received separate cash proposals from New York-based investment manager Apollo Management International and hotel and casino operator Caesars Entertainment.
In accordance with UK takeover rules, both Apollo and Caesars are required to announce a firm intention to make an offer for William Hill by October 23.
William Hill shares have risen 93% over the past month alone amid speculation it was on the radar of Caesars Entertainment. Caesars had agreed a mega-merger with Eldorado Resorts in the US, which saw the creation of the country's largest casino operator when it closed in July. William Hill had struck a partnership with Eldorado back in 2018, in a bid to crack the lucrative US sports betting market.
AJ Bell's Russ Mould explained: "A series of profit warnings, prompted by operational miscues with its online business, where William Hill had failed to keep up with the times, led to the departure of chief executive James Henderson and left the firm open to attack. Henderson's successor, Philip Bowcock, steadied the ship a little, even if the 2017 results were marred by a write-down on its Aussie business, which has since been sold. But it is new boss Ulrik Bengtsson, initially chief digital officer following the acquisition of Sweden's Mr Green, who has done most to coax Hills into a gallop again - even if the share price did not respond initially, not least because of the Covid pandemic.
"A promised review of the UK's 2005 Gambling Act, to ensure it is fit for the digital age, could be both threat and opportunity, especially as Bengtsson is overseeing improved momentum in William Hill's online business, where its market share has long lagged the company's share of High Street betting turnover. But it is William Hill's position in America that is attracting suitors once more."
On AIM, Boohoo Group closed up 15% after the under-fire online fashion retailer laid out a series of changes it plans to make after an independent review found "significant and clearly unacceptable issues" in its supply chain.
The review was launched by Boohoo in July following claims it sold clothes made in factories where staff were paid less than the minimum wage. It identified "many failings" in the Leicester supply chain and recommended improvements to Boohoo's corporate governance, compliance and monitoring processes.
Alison Levitt, who was appointed to run the review, was satisfied that Boohoo did not deliberately allow poor conditions and low pay to exist within its supply chain, however. Following the review and its recommendations, Boohoo said it will enhance corporate governance and oversight, and will appoint two new non-executive directors to strengthen the board. It plans for one of these director roles to be filled by someone experienced in dealing with environmental, social and governance matters.
The pound was quoted at USD1.2700 at the London equities close, lower from USD1.2713 at the close Thursday.
The pound remained lower against the greenback after UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak's new measures to support the domestic labour market through the coronavirus crisis outlined on Thursday fell short of analyst expectations.
"Sunak announced that the government will be helping viable businesses with their employee wages, as long as they work over 33% of their normal working hours. This will certainly act as a safety net for Britain, but many worry for the sake of small business owners and sole traders during this time. It is likely the government will experience a surge in total unemployment all together after the furlough scheme ends in October, leaving a higher economic burden due to the number of people applying for Universal Credit," said analysts at OFX.
The euro stood at USD1.1623 at the European equities close, down from USD1.1645 late Thursday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY105.65, up from JPY105.50 late Thursday.
Stocks in New York were rounding off a volatile week higher at the London equities close, recovering after opening in the red, following the headlines around stimulus discussions on Capitol Hil
The DJIA was up 0.4%, the S&P 500 index up 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite up 1.1%.
On Thursday, markets got a boost on news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to assemble a new spending bill to boost the US economy. Reports said Pelosi is eyeing a USD2.4 trillion bill, still much bigger than the package that Republicans have favoured.
US market have experienced wild swings this week as investors contend with a rise in coronavirus cases, stubbornly high unemployment and uncertainty surrounding November's presidential election.
"Sentiment is fragile, and it's been a turbulent week," noted Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.
On the economic front, US durable goods orders undershot expectations for August, according to figures from the Census Bureau.
Durable goods orders rose 0.4% month-on-month in August, far slower than the 12% growth registered for July and disappointing consensus, cited by FXStreet, of 1.5%.
Brent oil was quoted at USD41.76 a barrel at the London close, up from USD41.52 at the close Thursday.
Gold was trading at USD1,863.20 an ounce at the London equities close, higher against USD1,859.50 late Thursday.
The economic events calendar on Monday has South Africa producer prices at 1030 BST.
The UK corporate calendar on Monday has interim results from newspaper publisher Reach and pensions consolidator Chesnara.
By Arvind Bhunjun; firstname.lastname@example.org
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