Investors on the defensive, snapping up tobacco stocks as UK prepares for second lockdown

Investors were in full defensive mode today as the UK government unveiled fresh curfew measures and told people to work from home.

As a result tobacco, gold and utility stocks were snapped up as the FTSE 100 eked out a small 15.30 point gain at 5819.59.

British American Tobacco lead the way, up 74p at 2699p, while Imperial Brands climbed 26p at 1367p and gold producer Polymetal gained 5.5p at 1708p.

Supermarkets were also on the charge on news that shoppers were again hoarding items such as loo rolls and pasta in preparation to spend more time at home.

Ocado gained 44p at 2847p and Sainsbury’s was up 2.8p at 199.6p.

Firmly in the red for the second session in a row were airlines. There are now deep fears in the City that the industry would again have to turn to shareholders for cash if governments around the globe impose strict second lockdowns.

British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines was off 4.2p at 93p and Easyjet lost 16.9p at 478p.

One broker said: “The industry has been unable to avoid deteriorating market conditions, as rising Covid-19 cases lead to further travel restrictions, with the rapidity of these changes and resulting confusion further suppressing demand. A vaccine or rapid testing are unlikely to arrive fast enough.”

But the worst performing stock was Beazley after the insurer said it expects claims linked to the novel coronavirus pandemic to double to $340 million, with almost all the estimated increase arising from events cancelled in the wake of a recent spike in infections.

“With the largest segment being conferences, our clients are still largely unable to operate as restrictions on holding events persist,” Beazley said.

Shares were down 45.6p at 344p.

Also suffering was fizzy drink Irn-Bru maker AG Barr which reported a 63% fall in its half-year profit over lower demand amid the coronavirus crisis.

But shares gained 44p at 417p after the company said it would start repaying dividends again next year.