Wanted: comfortable residence with no signs of subsidence at a reasonable price.
If this was the demand from investors, property site Rightmove appeared to fit the bill today. The FTSE 100 firm gave cheer to housing market followers, reporting 65 days of record traffic.
The company reckons that, as well as pent up demand, Brits have reassessed their living arrangements during lockdown, and are scoping out the market.
Demand for new homes for sale in June and July was 50% above the same period last year. A shift in interest to larger properties in more rural areas has been reported by agents. Rightmove shares, which plunged to 400p in April, rose 7% to 618p.
However, Ed Monk at Fidelity warned that a long-term trend for estate agents quitting the site was still a worry. He said: “The challenge for Rightmove is that its dominant position — listing 50% more properties than any other portal — stands to be eroded.”
Rightmove revenues fell 34% to £94.8 million and operating profits dropped 43% to £61.7 million in the first-half due to lockdown. Halifax reported house prices pushed to a new high, increasing £3,770 month on month to a UK average of £241,604 in July.
Events across the Pond dominated trading, as US President Donald Trump signed an order banning US residents from doing business with the Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat apps beginning 45 days from now.
The move sent Asian markets falling, and the FTSE 100 was subdued, up just 9.59 points at 6036.53 as traders awaited US non-farm payroll data. Jitters over a second Covid wave across Europe were weighing on travel and consumer stocks, Cineworld was off 8% at 32p, easyJet tumbled 5% to 561p and IAG, which today began cutting jobs at British Airways, fell 4% to 178p.
The Covid crisis has lit a match under pharma shares and Hikma —up around 30% this year — lifted 11% to 2386p, valuing it at £5.5 billion. The FTSE 100 drugs firm posted rising first-half profits and raised its interim dividend by 14% after strong demand for its injectables business. It is working on a Covid-19 treatment with America’s Gilead.
Telecoms testing firm Spirent bounced 6% higher to 291p as it saw first-half revenues increase by 7% to $233.7 million while profits doubled. Chief executive Eric Updyke said it had demonstrated “a resilient business model at a time when remote connectivity is critical”.
The Covid-19 bounce in a cluster of AIM-listed stocks continued apace today, as Avacta saw shares step up. The firm specialises in biotherapeutics — medicines produced from biological sources such as living organisms — and said it had entered into a collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The institution, which studies infectious diseases, will clinically validate Avacta’s saliva coronavirus test, which it is developing with life sciences firm Cytiva. The stock rose 5.7p or 4% to 139.7p.