Strong earnings and trade hopes push FTSE above 7,200

A mix of decent corporate results and hopes there will be progress in trade discussions between the US and China helped the FTSE 100 through the 7,200 mark by Thursday lunchtime. At midday the index of leading UK shares was up 0.4% to 7,217.62. European markets were also in positive territory and US futures pointed to gains on Wall Street later too.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

AstraZeneca rose 5.3% to £60.22 as it said Thursday a 'strong' fourth quarter led by performance of new medicines underscored its return to growth as the drugmaker met its guidance.

Low-cost airline EasyJet dipped 0.3% as it confirmed it was in discussions with Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane and Delta Air Lines about forming a consortium to explore a take over of Italian national carrier Alitalia.

Price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com moved 4.9% higher to 327.9p as it reported an 8% increase in group revenue in 2018 as it made 'significant progress' in executing its strategy to boost growth in its core markets and unlock new ones.

Bottling firm Coca-Cola HBC fell 3.7% to £26.02, paring earlier heavier losses as a robust set of 2018 results was accompanied by a lukewarm outlook for 2019.

Software company Micro Focus International climbed 13% after it posted a better-than-expected 5.3% decline in pro-forma revenue for the 12 months to 31st October and anticipated this more positive trend would continue.

Asset manager Ashmore dropped 4.4% to 395.2p after it reported that assets under management increased in the first half as inflows were bolstered by renewed momentum in emerging markets amid signs the dollar was set to weaken.

Restaurant and pub chain The Restaurant Group fell 12.3% to 128p as it announced on Thursday that chief executive Andy McCue would step down from his position due to 'extenuating personal circumstances'.

Medical treatments firm ConvaTec Group slumped 20.5% to 117.8p after it said annual results were 'disappointing' even as they met the company's previously revised expectations. But the company said its Pivot to Growth turnaround programme would help steady performance.

Rolls-Royce advanced 1% to 951.2p as it said on Thursday it had secured an order from Emirates to provide its Trent 7000 engines to power 40 Airbus A330neo aircraft. The company did not disclose any financial details.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Software firm WANDisco gained 24% to 620p after raising $17.5m at 546p and announcing it had received advanced technology partner status with Amazon Web Services' partner network.

Drug company MotifBio crashed 81.5% to 7.39p as it revealed regulators in the Us have rejected its icalprim new drug application. Its partner on the proposed skin treatment, Amphion Innovations was down 70%.