UK Markets close in 4 hrs 39 mins

FTSE-100 leaps as Boohoo's Leicester factories and DS Smith's packaging sales come under the spotlight

JIM ARMITAGE
Ricky Vigil/Getty Images for Boohoo

Shares rose today after US technology stocks hit new record highs last night.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index has rebounded with a gravity-defying surge from the covid markets crash, surging even more than the wider Dow Jones and S&P indices, which have both regained their losses since unprecedented fiscal and monetary support was pumped in by government and the Federal Reserve to support the economy and asset prices.

Such interventions have so far largely been overwhelming even the disturbing second waves of virus outbreaks in the country, although the economic impact of new lockdowns has been crimping some of the gains. Last night's Federal Reserve minutes were fairly uneventful but sent the message that the central bank would keep up its interventions.

That has given Asian markets a decent day today, which carried on into Europe, where the FTSE gained 54.79 at 6212.75.

Some of the gains were driven by positive news on vaccine trials by Pfizer but US unemployment data gave rise to hopes for the economy there, adding to the good news on many countries' economies from yesterday's PMI data.

Expectations that oil demand globally is to increase accordingly could drive oil shares today after Shell slashed its valuation of its assets this week.

However, any exuberance could be dashed later in the day by US non-farm payroll employment figures. Coming before the Independence Day holiday in the US, these could lead to some strong market moves as traders position themselves to brace safely for the long weekend.

Boohoo was accused yesterday of helping spread the coronavirus due to poor conditions at Leicester factories supplying its websites. A human rights group accused factories supplying it of insisting workers keep coming in and operating as usual during the covid lockdown despite being sick. Labour Behind the Label said it had found workers not social distancing and furloughed workers being ordered to come into work, claiming it was "Boohoo in particular who's driving production during the lockdown." Boohoo declined to comment on the allegations but said it had adhered by government rules. Its shares fell 1%.

Hargreaves Lansdown, the retail investment platform, rose 2% after revamping its controversial Best Buy list in the wake of the Woodford scandal. HL was accused of suckering more members of the public into the fund manager's duff Woodford Equity Fund by keeping it on the list of recommended investments long after questions had been raised about its performance. HL claimed its new "Wealth 50" featured funds would have screened out such a fund next time.

DS Smith, the cardboard packaging maker, reported full year results that were boosted by people using its boxes more than ever for Amazon and other online deliveries. However, industrial usage of its packaging in the aero and automotive industries fell sharply and it held the dividend, upsetting shareholders who marked the stock down 8%.

Associated British Foods had a decent update on trading at Primark, taking its shares up 7% to the top of the FTSE. Engineer Meggitt's trading update impressed the markets, too, and was greeted with an 8% share price leap.