LONDON -- As is often the case, weekend press coverage had a bearing on Monday's trades by private investors. My eyes won't have been the only ones, for instance, to eagerly devour reports of a clash between Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY.L ) and City regulators over the timing of the resumption of dividend payments.
The bottom line? Lloyds, it seems, wants to pay a small 2013 dividend in early 2014, but regulators think the bank should hold the cash back to bolster its balance sheet. Down almost 2% yesterday morning, Lloyds' shares were accordingly in strong demand by the retail clients of stockbroker TD Direct Investing, comprising yesterday's single-most popular buy with the broker's clients between the market's opening and 12 noon.
Next up: Scancell Holdings (LSE: SCLP.L ) , a biopharmaceutical company focused on the cancer therapeutics market and the third-most popular purchase by TD Direct Investing's retail clients yesterday morning. Last week, the shares rose by 53%, with bulletin-board traffic -- as opposed to hard news or company statements -- the apparent cause.
Yesterday morning, the board put out a statement via an RNS: "The board of Directors of the Company notes the rise in the Company's share price. ... The Directors are not aware of any reason that would lead to such a movement in its price."
The results for the year ended April 30, 2012 will be released Friday, so we might learn more then. In the meantime, I for one won't be buying. I like my pharmaceutical treatments -- and dividends -- delivered by FTSE 100 stalwart GlaxoSmithKline, thanks.
Last up is rail and bus operator FirstGroup (LSE: FGP.L ) , which also slipped 2% yesterday. As with last week's falls, the impetus was the cancellation of its West Coast contract win by the Department for Transport. Weekend press coverage was extensive and no doubt accurately portrayed the anger and discomfiture of chief executive Tim O'Toole.
Popular with income investors, the share was the fourth-most popular buy by TD Direct Investing's retail clients, who were no doubt attracted by the 20% fall in price in just a week. Less attractive for those same income investors will be the talk of a 400 million pound rights issue to prop up FirstGroup's stretched balance sheet, which is loaded with debt.
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