London shares make healthy gains in early trade on Monday in the wake of a firmer Asia overnight, albeit against a mixed session on Wall Street on Friday. With the Brexit debate no starting to get into full swing markets are likely to remain volatile for the foreseeable future in the UK as the in-out referendum on the UK's EU membership heats up.
The FTSE 100 index rallies around 70 points higher, or about 1.2%, to 6,023 while midcaps and smaller companies put in similarly encouraging gains.
In corporate news, Home Retail (HOME) soars 11.9% to 171.8p on bid war excitement. Following the stock market close on Friday, South African retail group Steinhoff, the owner of Bensons Beds and Harveys in the UK, gatecrashed J Sainsbury's (SBRY) bid with a more attractive 175p offer for the Argos owner. J Sainsbury is expected to ask for an extension of the Tuesday deadline to table a firm bid for Home Retail and if this isn't granted by the Takeover Panel, the supermarket giant will be forced to raise its offer or walk away.
Bank giant HSBC (HSBA) slumps 3.7% to 433.05p as it cautions on near-term progress as the brakes tighten on the Chinese economy. The group unveils full year pre-tax profit 1% higher at $18.9 billion but its warning of concerns over China's slowing economic growth could act as a drag on the stock far beyond today's results.
Lloyds Banking (LLOY) edges 2% higher to 63p on reports in the weekend papers that the part-nationalised lender is to announce a special dividend when reporting its 2015 results on Thursday (25 Feb).
Among bigger movers, branded products minnow LiteBulb (LBB:AIM) slumps 33.3% to 1.25p as its latest financing update flags a tight cash position; LiteBulb is now in active discussions to raise £2 million through an equity fundraising and restructure its debts.
Salt Lake Potash (SO4:AIM), up 34% to 18.12p, says following the recent deeper drilling programme, the total Mineral Resource estimate at its Lake Wells Project has risen to 80 million to 85 million tonnes (Mt) of sulphate of potash, up 193% on the previous estimate.
Fashion-to-foods combine Associated British Foods (ABF) adds 1.6% at £33.08 on a solid interim pre-close trading update. Full-year guidance is increased from a 'modest' to only a 'marginal' decline in earnings per share, reflecting a better-than-expected operating margin performance from budget clothing chain Primark and a lower translational impact following the recent weakening of sterling.
Medical technology sales company Inspiration Healthcare (IHC:AIM) climbs 7.1% to 37.5p on pre-tax profit beating expectations for the year to 31 January 2016. Improved margins and lower R&D spend are reasons why it will exceed the £1 million forecast for the year.
A 13.6% interim pre-tax profit rise to £14.2 million sends animal medicine-maker Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 7.3% higher to £11.39. High demand in North America and moving into new geographies helped the company report a strong start to the year.