What to Watch: Coal spin-off boosts Anglo American, Johnson Matthey upgrades forecasts, and Asos sales boom continues

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
People walk past a board outside the Anglo American offices in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
People walk past a board outside the Anglo American offices in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

Coal sale boosts Anglo American

Shares in mining giant Anglo American (AAL.L) ticked higher after the company announced a deal to offload its thermal coal operations in South Africa.

Anglo America said it would demerge its coal operations into a new company, Thungela Resources, which will be listed on both the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges. 

"Anglo American has been pursuing a responsible transition away from thermal coal for a number of years now," chief executive Mark Cutifani said. "As the world transitions towards a low carbon economy, we must continue to act responsibly - bringing our employees, shareholders, host communities, host governments and customers along with us. Our proposed demerger of what are precious natural resources for South Africa, allows us to do exactly that."

Shares rose 1.4%.

Johnson Matthey upgrades forecasts

Catalytic convertor maker Johnson Matthey (JMAT.L) upgraded its profit forecasts on Thursday, sending shares rallying. 

Johnson Matthey said it had a "materially stronger" second half to the year that meant it was on track to report full-year figures "around the top end of market expectations."

"In the year, we continued to execute our growth strategy at pace," chief executive Robert MacLeod said. "We are driving cashflow from our more established businesses to invest in our suite of exciting sustainable technologies that will enable decarbonisation and enhance circularity, including our portfolio of eLNO battery materials and hydrogen technologies. 

"As the world builds back greener following the pandemic, we have an important role to play in helping society address climate change through our sustainable technologies, and we remain focused on commercialising these and delivering our growth ambitions."

Shares rallied 3.4%.

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UK construction boom

Britain's ongoing lockdown has not been enough to stop a building boom, according to new data.

Closely watched private sector data published on Thursday showed UK construction activity hit a six-and-a-half-year high last month.

IHS Markit's purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the construction sector registered at 61.7 in March. It marked a sharp acceleration on February's figure of 53.3 and a big upgrade from an earlier "flash" estimate.

PMIs are given on a scale of 0 to 100. Anything above 50 signals growth in activity, while anything below means activity is contracting. March's figure was the highest reading since September 2014.

IHS Markit said it found "robust growth" in all sub-sectors of construction and reported job creation in the industry at a 27-month high.

Asos sales boom continues

Online retail giant Asos' (ASC.L) profit for the six months to 28 February surged 253% and it had an “exceptional first-half performance” as more and more consumers shopped online due to lockdown restrictions.

Shares were up roughly 1.8% on Thursday morning.

Its profit was £106.4m ($146.5m), up from £30.1m a year earlier, while total sales grew 25% and its active customer base increased to 24.9 million, up 1.5 million over six months.

Group revenue and retail sales were both roughly £2bn, and both were up 24% year-on-year.

Nick Beighton, CEO, said: “These record results, which include robust growth in sales, customer numbers and profitability, demonstrate the significant progress we have made against all of our strategic priorities and the strength of our execution capability."

European opens higher with oil under pressure

European markets rose modestly at the open on Thursday in what looked to be another quiet day in markets.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was 0.4% higher shortly after the open in London. The CAC 40 (^FCHI) in Paris was up 0.6% and the DAX (^GDAXI) in Frankfurt was 0.4% higher.

The FTSE 250 (^FTMC), which hit a record high on Wednesday, was unchanged in early trade. UK stocks have been powered higher in recent sessions by optimism about the next stage of economic reopening in Britain on Monday.

Oil came under early selling pressure after US data showed a sharp increase in gasoline stockpiling. Brent futures (BZ=F) were down 0.4% to $62.89 per barrel and crude (CL=F) was off 0.6% to $59.42.

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