FTSE races north ahead of Autumn Statement

London stocks raced higher in early deals, following on from gains on Wall St and ahead of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond issuing his Autumn Statement amid the continuing Brexit muddle-through.

Soon after the open, FTSE 100 was up 48.79 points, or 0.72%, to 6868.51, while FTSE 250 was up 100.17, or 0.57%, to 17,779.2. At 8.39am, WTI crude was up 0.02% to $48.04/bbl and Brent was flat at $49.12. Gold was up 0.06% to $1211.9/oz.

Miners were again to the fore. Randgold (RRS) rose 2.19% to 5942.5p, while Glencore (GLEN) added 2.17% to 288.58p and Fresnillo (FRES) gained 1.87% to 1306p. More followed, as did several utilities after Severn Trent (SVT), up 1.76% to 2259p.

United Utilities (UU.), up 1.26% to 906.75p, has booked an H1 pretax profit of £158.4m, down from £215.6m a year earlier. The result was achieved on revenue of £853m, from £857m. Interim dividend was 12.95p a share, up 1.1%.

Also-in-the-news Micro Focus (MCRO) rose 2.71% to 4746p as its FY revenue came in at $3.2bn, down 12% on the year-earlier period, but up 1% when adjusted for divestitures and forex moves. FY operating profit was $749m, representing an improved operating margin of 23.4%.

The overall positive tone to the FTSE was despite the looming presentation by Hammond, and caution may yet take root later in the session. For the moment, blue-chip risers outnumbered fallers about 88 to 12. Most sectors were represented to the upside.

Among the top-50 risers were multiple insurers and investment specialists, commercial property and pharmas, while supermarkets and big-ticket banks were mostly off the pace.

UK voted to quit the EU in a non-binding referendum in June. Since then, sterling has dived and inflation is on the up. Government hopes to trigger Article 50 have suffered setbacks in the courts, and it has yet to issue any kind of coherent, detailed plan for Brexit to the UK public.

BIGGER MOVERS

Brammer (BRAM), up 68.34% to 164.13p, has agreed a cash offer 165p a share from AI Robin, a subsidiary of funds managed by Advent International Corp. The offer values the company at £221.5m.

Tavistock Investments (TAVI), down 18.47% to 3.2p, intends to raise up to £2.1m via a placing and subscription of up to 70m new shares at or around 3p each. This is to satisfy the £2m cash consideration for Price Bailey Financial Services Ltd, which is part of the total £3.6m price tag.

Avocet Mining (AVM), down 13.97% to 49.25p, said that in connection with the gold seizure at the group's Inata gold mine in Burkina Faso it has received a further indication from the court that a verdict on whether the gold should be released is to be deferred until Dec. 19.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Richland Resources (RLD), up 8.33% to 1.63p, is pleased with the operational progress made during Q3, as the company once again achieved its production target as part of the ongoing ramp-up and development of the Carpricorn project.

Thomas Cook Group (TCG), up 7.68% to 79.2p, has posted a lower FY pretax profit of £42m, down from £50m a year ago. This was on revenue of £7.8bn, broadly unchanged on the year. Interim dividend was 0.5p a share, from nil.

MTI Wireless Edge (MWE), up 5.95% to 24.5p, subsidiary Mottech Water Solutions Ltd has received an order for energy and water resources management from a new customer in Tanzania.

Ilika (IKA), up 5.88% to 45p, is on course to meet analyst expectations for the 100% growth in materials development revenue relative to last year.

Paragon Group of Companies (PAG), up 4.42% to 378p, has improved its FY pretax profit to £143.2m, from £134.2m. Dividend totalled 13.5p a share, from 11.0p.

Finsbury Food (FIF), down 3.21% to 120.5p, said that, following the very strong growth of recent years, trading has been successfully maintained at these levels into the new financial year and performance is in line with expectation.

Vectura (VEC), up 3.32% to 151.15p, has materially widened its H1 pretax loss to £22.4m, from a loss of £5m. Revenue was much lower at £73.9m, from £26.1m, and amortisation of intangibles was £33.0m, from £9.3m.

Horizonte Minerals (HZM), up 3.09% to 2.5p, has been awarded three new mineral exploration concession areas, which increase its land position to a total of 132,278 hectares.

Other stocks in the news included CLS Holdings (CLI), TechFinancials (TECH), Allied Minds (ALM), Chapel Down (CDGP), International Public Partnerships (INPP), Softcat (SCT), HICL Infrastructure (HICL), Pantheon Resources (PANR) and Dee Valley Group (DVW).