Sales for housebuilder Bellway remained under pressure during July, down 14pc on last year amid generally softer summer levels. Private reservations stood at 140 per week, compared to 162 in July 2019.
In a trading statement, the FTSE 250 group said demand was growing, supported by Help to Buy. All of its sales outlets have reopened, and nearly all its staff have returned to work.
The group’s total completion in the year to the end of July stood at 7,522, down 31pc on the previous year.
Liberum’s Marcus Cole said the update showed Bellway’s trading has “significantly improved” since its last update in June, however, shares slipped more than 4pc. It ended the day 108.7p lower at £24.56.
It came as European stocks were driven higher by hopes of a new US stimulus plan as well as reports of a coronavirus vaccine, developed by Russian scientists, which is expected to go into full production in September.
The pound also managed to quickly shake off a slight fall prompted by the morning’s employment data. It had perked up by the afternoon, rising around 0.4pc against the dollar to put pressure on the FTSE 100, which underperformed compared to its continental peers.
London’s benchmark index rose 1.7pc to 6,154.34, while the FTSE 250 climbed 1.5pc to 17,997.18.
Airline and travel stocks were the main beneficiaries of the vaccine reports, with British Airways owner IAG pushing 17p higher to 218.7p.
However, it was gambling group GVC, owner of Ladbrokes Coral, that led blue-chip risers, after US billionaire Barry Diller bought a $1bn (£760m) stake in MGM, GVC’s US joint venture partner. Goodbody’s Gavin Kelleher said the investment represented “third-party vindication of the MGM/GVC JV opportunity”. It closed up 69p at 785p.
By contrast, precious metals producers, utilities and consumer goods makers slipped during the session. Silver and gold producers Fresnillo and Polymetal led the fallers, shedding 7pc and 4pc respectively.
Metals prices have lost their shine in the last few of days, with gold falling 4pc to $1,942 an ounce yesterday as investors cashed in gains and moved money into riskier companies.
Unilever’s share price was left little changed, edging down 35p to £44.85, after chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly sold £2m of shares in the consumer goods giant.
Following a sharp upwards shift on Monday, Cineworld shares took off after a US judge at the weekend struck down a rule banning movie studios from owning cinemas – raising the possibility of a takeover bid for some of the group’s sites. The cinema chain surged 64pc before cooling to close 11.9p higher at 52.9p, a rise of 29pc.