UK stocks moved higher on Wednesday as Google-owner Alphabet posted better-than-expected sales overnight and trading updates from UK firms were mostly positive. By midday the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 51 points or 0.9% to 6,010, breaking back above the 6,000 level for the first time since early March. Barclays was among the biggest gainers, rising 6.5% to 104p even as it reported a 40% drop in first-quarter profit owing to a £2.1bn credit impairment charge due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fellow lender Standard Chartered gained 2.8% to 401p after its profit fell 29% in the first quarter, as it too posted a significant rise in credit impairments linked to the crisis. Advertising group WPP gained 4.5% to 618p on announcing that it had won several new significant clients despite the crisis, as its revenue slipped 4.9% in the first quarter. Aerospace firms BAe Systems, Meggitt and Rolls-Royce were all 4% higher while British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines fell 3% to 211p after it announced it was laying off 12,000 staff. House builder Persimmon added 0.8% to £22.28 as it said customer enquiries during the UK's lockdown had remained at 'good levels' ahead of it reopening building sites from this week. Chemicals company Synthomer firmed 4% to 290p as it revealed strong demand for one of its chemicals commonly used in disposable gloves for the medical and health sectors. Specialist fuel, food and animal feed distributor NWF rallied 19% to 197p, having forecast a substantial improvement in performance, as the Covid-19 crisis increased demand for food and the falling oil price helped customers in its fuel business. Train and bus ticket portal Trainline advanced 1.6% to 364p after its lenders waived a financial covenant in respect of its £350m revolving credit facility until August 2021. Phone and electronics retailer Dixons Carphone jumped 16% to 79.7p, even as it ditched its full-year dividend, after it reported a surge in online sales and in the Nordic regions which helped to offset lost sales in its UK stores. In contrast, shares in clothing retailer Next eased back 2.3% to £46.74 as sales slumped 38% in the first quarter, a decline that the company said was steeper than it had feared. The company also suspended dividends and cancelled its share buyback. Insurance company Hiscox dropped 6.9% to 682p as it confirmed media speculation that it was mulling a potential equity raising to help it weather the current crisis. Collectible stamp retailer Stanley Gibbons dipped 2% to 2.5p amid a 'huge' impact from the Covid-19 crisis. The company said it had cancelled a planned auction in May but was planning to hold its next auction online.
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