Latest market news


FTSE closes higher, WH Smith edges ahead on cost cutting, bid buoys Hastings

UK stocks closed in positive territory on Wednesday, buoyed by strength in miners as the gold price continued to surge and with oil stocks in demand as crude prices broke higher following another significant drawdown in US weekly stockpiles.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index closed up 68.72 points, or 1.14%, at 6,104.72.

Hastings jumped 17.7% to 253p after it agreed to a bid from Sampo and South Africa's Rand of 250p per share.

Hastings also reported a higher first-half profit as a rise in premiums and an improved loss ratio offset the impact of claims inflation owing to the pandemic. Its shareholders would also get an interim dividend of 4.5p per share.

Fellow insurer Legal & General edged up 1.3% to 223p despite reporting a plunge in first-half profit as increased claims related to Covid-19 and lower interest rates weighed on performance.

Legal & General held its dividend steady at 4.93p per share.

Gambling company William Hill rallied 8.9% to 127.6p even as it scrapped its interim dividend after it posted an underlying loss for the first-half.

William Hill said that in the last two weeks of June, like-for-like revenue was flat, following the reopening of the majority of its retail estate.

Bottling behemoth Coca-Cola HBC fizzed up 8.1% to £21.98 as the soft drinks colossus insisted it was seeing early recovery signs amid lockdown easing measures. The encouraging outlook accompanied news of a sharp decline in first-half profit as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll.

Iron ore pellet producer Ferrexpo jumped 13% to 205p despite its profit falling 8% on lower iron ore fines prices, which offset a 5% rise in production.

Ferrexpo also declared a second interim dividend of 6.6c per share, on top of a payment of the same amount announced in June.

Retailer WH Smith rose 1.4% to 999.5p on news it could cut up to 1,500 jobs as part of a restructuring of its UK store operations amid a drop in customer footfall to its travel and high street shops.

Recruitment company Page gained 4.1% to 384.2p even as it swung to a small first-half loss and scrapped its interim dividend after the economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis crunched the jobs market.

Page's headcount had dropped by 713, or 9.3%, to 6,985 at the end of June after it chose to 'lose recent joiners or those on performance reviews'.

Healthcare services group UDG Healthcare firmed 4.7% to 741p, having reinstated its interim dividend and annual guidance, citing greater visibility as lockdowns eased.

Challenger bank Metro Bank tumbled 6.7% to 107.1p as it posted hefty first-half losses after it booked expected credit losses of £112m due to the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on borrowers' ability to pay back loans.

Music rights investor Hipgnosis Songs Fund improved 1p to 120p on announcing that it had acquired Blondie co-founders, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein's, writer's share and neighbouring rights royalties in their catalogues, comprising 197 songs.

Construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall was marked up 17.5% to £12.22 despite posting a 62% slump in first-half profit and scrapping its interim dividend, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Morgan Sindall, however, also reinstated its annual guidance, for a pre-tax profit of £50m-to-£60m, citing better visibility as lockdowns eased.

Molecular diagnostics group Yourgene Health added 5.9% to 18p on raising £16.2m via a share issue to help fund its acquisition of Vancouver-based sample preparation company Coastal Genomics.

New shares in the company were issued at 17p per share, following an initial announcement about the raising late on Tuesday.