“Rising oil and petrol prices lead us to take a more cautious stance on the prospects for the travel and leisure sector,” cautioned analysts at Panmure Gordon. “Record petrol prices have the potential to alter longer-term leisure habits, with consumers reassessing the need to travel meaningful distances to undertake regular out-of-the-home leisure activities.” With mortgage rates also rising and inflation “stubbornly high”, the broker argued that this was “not a comfortable backdrop for a sector heavily reliant on discretionary income”.
Given increasing petrol prices, Panmure was particularly anxious about the outlook for businesses with out-of-town locations and downgraded both Cineworld and Goals Soccer Centres to “hold”.
They were also worried about The Restaurant Group – whose restaurants such as Frankie & Benny’s are often located in sites such as leisure complexes – and cut their rating to “hold”.
Conversely, the broker turned a buyer of JD Wetherspoon, arguing that its pubs could benefit from being “community-based and may therefore show resilience in the face of record petrol prices”. But with the market on a firmer footing, the companies downgraded by Panmure did not seem too perplexed by the broker’s pessimism. Cineworld rose 6¼ to 218½p and Goals was flat at 114½p. The Restaurant Group gained 5½ to 301½p. But Wetherspoons fell 5.9 to 414.1p.
While the higher price of oil was worrying travel and leisure watchers, explorers and producers fuelled a rally on the benchmark index as investors applauded fresh discoveries of black gold.
Having found oil at an exploration well in Kenya, Tullow Oil leapt 97p to £15.70. A discovery of gas in Tanzania lifted BG Group and its FTSE 250 partner, Ophir Energy, up 27p to £15.19 and 75.6 to 477.6p respectively.
Oil giant BP climbed 4.35 to 481.9p and its peer, Royal Dutch Shell, put on 31½ to £22.68. Writing on the latter, Canaccord Genuity advised investors to buy, saying it was “time to revisit this forgotten oil stock”. A combination of a disappointing dividend and rising risk appetite have weighed on Shell, said analysts, but they reckoned that the recent retreat in its share price provided a good buying opportunity.
Signs of activity in the energy industry helped Lamprell too, which gained 13 to 350p. The oil rig maker said its backlog of contract bids was at a record high as strong oil prices fuelled confidence in the sector.
With energy stocks steaming ahead, the FTSE 100 recovered from its Monday morning lethargy to finish the day up 47.81 points to 5,902.7. The FTSE 250 gained 168.06 points to 11,734.73.
Spurring the market, too, was a speech from Ben Bernanke, head of America’s Federal Reserve, which gave traders hope that the US may yet unleash another round of quantitative easing.
Racing up the large-caps was Randgold Resources. Having been hurt last week by fears over political unrest in Mali, the precious metal miner recovered 130p to £57.80. But stablemate Polymetal International slipped 25½ to 935p.
Aberdeen Asset Management claimed the blue-chips’ silver medal. After announcing that clients had added £1.4bn of new money to its range of funds in the first two months of the year, Aberdeen jumped 10.9 to 260.8p.
Hopes for high ratings and advertising revenue from the latest series of Britain’s Got Talent boosted ITV, with the broadcaster ¾ higher at 88.7p. ITV pocketed up to £4m from advertisers such as Sony and Waitrose for slots in the first programme of the new series. UBS said there were signs of improving advertising and raised its price target by 9pc to 109p.
Fellow broadcaster BSkyB rose tuppence to 694½p thanks to bullish noises from Nomura. Shares in BSkyB have been hit by anxiety over the auction for the rights to screen Premier League football, with some analysts cautioning that the broadcaster might have to pay more for the matches.
“With a few exceptions, investor sentiment is firmly negative. 'It’s over’ said one fund manager, apocalyptically,” said Nomura. But it added that BSkyB had “overcome many concerns before” and “there is no reason it cannot do so again”.
“From Freeview, to fibre, to recession, to sports regulation, to Setanta, to BT, to a Branson-led Virgin revival, to concerns about being forced into buying foreign assets, Sky has overcome many challenges,” said analysts. ”