The FTSE 100 built on its earlier gains to trade materially higher by Thursday lunchtime as a mix of positive corporate updates, strong Chinese trade figures and hopes for more US stimulus lifted the index. By midday the FTSE was up 0.8% to the 6,800 mark.
US futures pointed to gains on Wall Street as investors awaited the full details of president-elect Joe Biden's Covid relief plan.
Tesco reported a strong UK sales performance in its third quarter with like-for-like growth of 6.7% to £14.7 billion in the 13 weeks to 28 November. The company said like-for-like sales in Christmas trading rose 8.1%.
Its shares dipped 0.4% to 241p.
Taylor Wimpey said total UK home completions fell by 39% to 9,609 in 2020, due primarily to the impact on production capacity during the second quarter shutdown. Despite this, the company said trading was in line with market expectations.
Shares reversed earlier losses to trade 2.4% higher at 164.9p.
Whitbread said Covid-19 restrictions have caused UK accommodation sales to fall 55.2%, with occupancy at 49.3%, in the 13 weeks to 26 November. Group sales were down 55.6% in the third quarter and by 70.2% in the year-to-date.
Its shares climbed 4.7% to £32.05.
Primark-owner Associated British Foods warned on performance of Primark after estimating the loss of sales caused by temporary store closures would reach £1.05 billion. The company said it now expected full year sales and adjusted operating profit for Primark to be 'somewhat lower' than last year.
Shares were flat at £22.21.
Homewares retailer Dunelm said it expected pre-tax profit for first half of fiscal 2021 to be approximately £112 million, up from £83.6 million last year, with sales up 23% to £585 million.
Shares were down 5.9% at £12.19.
Recruitment company Hays lifted its outlook on first-half profit on improving trends in both its temporary and permanent business segments during the second quarter. Operating profit for the first half of fiscal 2021 was now expected to be about £25 million following stronger fees seen in Q2, the company said.
Its shares rose 3.6% to 146.5p.
Online retailer Boohoo upgraded its outlook on performance as revenue rose 40% in the four months through the end of December. Following the strong peak trading performance, the company raised its guidance on revenue for the financial year to 28 February 2021, to a range of 36% to 38%, from its previous guidance of 28% to 32%.
Its shares fell 2.9% to 358.71p.
Online gambling company 888 said it expected performance to be 'moderately ahead' of its prior expectations following a strong end to the year. Both revenue and active customer numbers in December rose to monthly records, and the company said it now expected to report revenue and adjusted EBITDA, 'moderately ahead' of its prior expectations. Its shares dipped 0.7% to 301p.