The UK's benchmark FTSE 100 index reversed early morning declines as investors pushed share prices higher ahead of the Queen's speech, which echoed Boris Johnson's 'get Brexit done' mantra. At midday the index is 12.8 points to the good, lifting the FTSE 100 to its highest level since July at 7,553.55. In the state opening of Parliament, the Queen outlined the government's plans for immigration and work reform, but it is the UK's European Union divorce that dominates investor attention, who will be hoping for greater clarity down the line despite detailed negotiations still to be concluded through 2020. This comes as investors largely shrugged off news that President Donald Trump had become only the third US president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. He now faces a Senate trial, although this may prove to be little more than a show event given that the Senate remains in the control of the Republicans, who seem highly unlikely to leave their leader high and dry. QUIET DAY FOR COMPANY NEWS Corporate news is thin on the ground with Christmas just days away, although private hospitals operator NMC Health continues to be dogged by doubts following a damning report published by notorious hedge fund shorter Muddy Waters. It is again the FTSE 100's biggest loser, the stock down more than 13% at £14.995. The share price closed on 16 December, ahead of the allegations, at £25.85. Royal Bank of Scotland reversed earlier modest gains to nudge 0.08% lower to 248.5 following changes to its management team at Natwest Markets, with Chris Marks and Richard Place having stepped down as chief executive and chief financial officer respectively. An internal and external search is already underway for their successors, the banking group said. PayPoint moved 0.6% higher at £10.14 on the news that chief executive Patrick Headon has had to step down from his role. This follows a temporary leave of absence, during which Headon had been receiving treatment for a medical condition. Popular pubs chain JD Wetherspoon dived 5% to £16.36 after HSBC removed its buy rating on the stock. Analysts admit their liking of the group but question the potential for significant upside near-term given the stock's near-55% rally through 2019. Vodafone fell 0.3% to 150.04p after it announced it is selling Vodafone Malta to Monaco Telecom for a cash consideration equivalent to an enterprise value of €250m. MOVERS ELSEWHERE Family-controlled engineer Goodwin crashed more than 16% to £29.60 after posting a disappointing 5.1% drop in half year pre-tax profit to £7.4m as well as a rise in net debt and warning investors can expect flat profits for the next six months. Wizz Air stayed largely flat at £39.66 after the low cost airline announced the appointment of Jourik Hooghe as executive vice president and group chief financial officer. Current chief financial officer Iain Wetherall has been appointed to the newly-created position of chief investment officer. Housebuilder Crest Nicholson climbed 3% to 433.8p after it announced the appointment of Tom Nicholson to the board as chief operating officer from 1 January 2020. Greencore lost earlier gains to register a 0.8% decline to 266.8p on the news that Gordon Hardie has been appointed as non-executive director with effect from 1 February 2020. Circassia Pharmaceuticals slumped 11% to 18.6p on the news that BeyondAir has terminated its licensing agreement for the commercial rights to the late-stage ventilator-compatible nitric oxide product LungFit PH in the US and China 'for material breach'. Fellow biotech business PureTech Health ticked 2% higher to 276p after flagging up positive results from affiliate company Follica's clinical study in male androgenetic alopecia. Drinks firm Stock Spirit reversed earlier losses to add 1.5p to 201.5p after its second largest investor, Western Gate Private investments, called on the vodka, brandy and rum producer to pay a special dividend and review its policies for capital allocation, acquisitions and dividends.
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