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London pre-open: Stocks seen muted amid Covid concerns; China GDP in focus

(Sharecast News) – London stocks were set for a muted open on Monday as investors digest the latest Chinese GDP data, amid ongoing concerns about the Covid-19 crisis.
The FTSE 100 was called to open seven points lower at 6,735.

CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said: “Over the weekend reports out of Germany suggested the prospect of a night time curfew was being considered, after France imposed its own lockdown curfew from 6pm in the evening last week. The UK government also tightened its own lockdown rules, closing all travel corridors into the country starting at 4am this morning, and imposing strict testing and quarantine restrictions on anyone entering the country.

“Concern over the levels of US vaccine reserves, along with reports on Friday that vaccine deliveries in Europe were being pared back due to short term supply constraints also didn’t help, putting downward pressure on US treasury yields, and helping to push the US dollar index to its highest levels since 21st December.”

Hewson said this morning’s economic numbers showed the Chinese economy expanded by 6.5% in Q4, with the last three months suggesting that economic activity had more or less returned to normal.

“While the headline GDP number looks impressive, it is still clear from consumer spending numbers that the Chinese consumer is still exhibiting some level of caution with retail sales growth still below the levels last seen at the end of 2019, when spending was trending at levels close to 8%,” he said.

In corporate news, telecommunications testing firm Spirent said full-year profits were expected to be in line with expectations after a strong fourth quarter driven by work on 5G infrastructure.

The company said revenue grew by 4% to $522m and adjusted operating profit was forecast to be in line with market consensus “which represents strong earnings growth over 2019”.

Spirent added that it was reviewing its cash position against the future outlook and investment opportunities and would return any money deemed excess to shareholders.

Centrica chief financial officer Johnathan Ford has quit in the middle of a turnaround plan for the energy supplier. Ford has stepped down with immediate effect for personal reasons. Kate Ringrose, group financial controller, has replaced him.

AstraZeneca and its partner Daiichi Sankyo announced on Monday that ‘Enhertu’, or trastuzumab deruxtecan, has been approved in the United States for the treatment of gastric cancer.

The company said that specifically, it was approved for adult patients with locally-advanced or metastatic HER2-positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma who had received a prior trastuzumab-based regimen.

It said the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was based on positive results from the randomised ‘DESTINY-Gastric01’ phase 2 trial, conducted in Japan and South Korea.

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