London equities zip north in early trade on Friday as traders follow the lead set by peers on Wall Street and across Asia overnight. That equity appetite has been spiked by Japan installing a negative interest rate of 0.1% in a bid to counter its economic softness by encouraging banks to lend. UK financial stocks are main beneficiaries, the blue-chips led higher by asset managers Aberdeen Asset Management (ABN) and Old Mutual (OML).
The FTSE 100 index rallies 72 points, or about 1.2%, to 6,004, breakjing back over the psychologically important 6,000 barrier for the first time since 6 January.
In corporate news, pay-TV giant Sky (SKY) impresses with interim numbers, the shares rising 2.5% to £10.67. Revenues for the six months to 31 December are up 5% to £5.72 billion with 337,000 new customers added in the second quarter, the most in 10 years. The company also announces the return of James Murdoch as chairman, four years after he resigned at the height of the phone hacking scandal.
Interdealer broker Tullett Prebon (TLPR) gains 8.4% to 341p as equity and commodity volumes improve in the last two months of 2015. That means full-year revenue will be a little better than expected and margins are also solid, according to finance director Paul Mainwaring. Sector peer ICAP (IAP), which is in talks with Tullett over a merger of the two firms' broking businesses, gains 3.8%.
Corrugated packaging company DS Smith (SMDS) surges 6.6% to 365.6p after Charles Stanley initiates coverage on the stock with a 'buy' rating. The analyst says the £3.2 billion cap offers exposure to the European recovery, possible foreign exchange gains should sterling fall further, opportunities to exceed expected growth and a high quality business model.
A deeply-discounted cash call hammers ITM Power (ITM:AIM), the stock down more than 23% to 15p. The company has raised £2.14 million via a placing of 14.3 million shares at 15p each. It will also offer up to 24.9 million new shares to shareholders at 15p, potentially raising a further £3.74 million. ITM also unveils half-year results.
European non-life insurer Gable (GAH:AIM) rises 7% to 13.5p on the chief executive and finance director buying more than £45,000 worth of shares in the £17 million cap combined.
Gene and cell therapy specialist Oxford BioMedica (OXB) climbs 6.5% to 7.4p on starting development work on a second project for Swiss drug giant Novartis (NOVN:VTX). The financial details have not been disclosed.
A profit warning sends Source BioScience (SBS) 8% lower to 16p. Pre-tax profits for 2015 will be £400,000 lower than previously expected thanks to charges linked to the adoption of a long-term incentive plan in the second half of the year. Consensus had expected a £3.6 million pre-tax profit during the year.
Giant observation wheel developer Challenger Acquisitions (CHAL:AIM) gains 2% to 29.8p after raising £1 million through a convertible loan issue, of which $1 million (£696,229) is being invested in the construction of the New York Wheel, increasing Challenger's stake in the wheel to around 3%. The balance of the funds raised will be used for general corporate purposes.
Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casino owner Rank (RNK) edges up 1.2% to 281.2p on a 4% rise in adjusted profit before tax to £37.4 million in the six months to 31 December, despite a £5 million drag from the Point of Consumption Tax. Digital revenues are up 14% and the group says it's on track to migrate to a new digital platform by the end of this quarter.
Unloved IRN-BRU-to-Strathmore water maker A.G. Barr (BAG) is marked up 11p to 526.5p on a reassuring pre-close trading update, covering the final quarter and year to January as a whole. A. G. Barr flags sales growth in excess of 2.5% for the final quarter, a solid turn in a tough soft drinks market and following an improved second half performance, says it is on course to meet full-year forecasts.