UK stocks held onto their gains throughout Wednesday with investors buoyed by hopes of a coronavirus vaccine this year and a new US stimulus plan. Health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons a vaccine could be available in 2020, with the law changed to fast track approval before Christmas. Investors were also in optimistic mood after developments across the pond, where US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin's claimed 'a bipartisan agreement should still be reached' regarding a new coronavirus stimulus plan. The UK's benchmark FTSE 100 index closed 1.35%, or 78.9 points, higher to 5,940.95. LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS In company news, UK housebuilder Barratt Developments gained 1.27% to 510p, even as it scrapped a planned special dividend after its first-half profit slumped 46%. The company also announced that net reservations had improved markedly from the start of July, as had its forward sales position. Computacenter, meanwhile, jumped 11.6% to £22.50 on guiding for annual performance 'materially above' management's expectations. Elsewhere, budget carrier Ryanair dipped 0.87% to €11.73, even having carried 53% less passengers in August on-year. Low-cost carrier Wizz Air descended 4.06% to £35.90, as its passenger volumes in August dropped 41%. Workwear and textile company Johnson Service added 1.16% to 105p despite pledging not to pay a dividend this year after swinging to a first-half loss. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Fitness centre owner Gym Group shed 4.3% to 150p as it swung to a first-half loss after coronavirus restrictions forced the temporary closure of all its outlets. Gym Group said membership numbers had bounced back to 676k at the end of August, having slumped from 891k on 29 February to 658k on 25 July. It said it needed around 520k for cash-flow break-even. Auto dealer Pendragon revved 3.88% higher to 8.31p on unveiling a strategy revamp that would see it pursue 'further cost base efficiencies' and beef up its digital capabilities. Pendragon said it was aiming for the overhaul to generate underlying profits of £85m-to-£90m by the 2025 financial year. IT services provider Redcentric gained 3.5% to 147p, having initiated 'limited' discussions with potential acquirers of the company. Redcentric said it was in talks with Macquarie Principal Finance, UK Branch and Six Degrees Holdings. Mass spectrometry instruments developer Microsaic Systems dropped 9% to 0.46p as it, too, posted a first-half loss, as revenue fell thanks to the Covid-19 crisis. Microsaic Systems said a formal sale process first mentioned in July had kicked off last month, with potential interested parties having been contacted by the company and its advisers. Specialist wealth manager and employee benefits group Mattioli Woods fell 1.78% to 690p, as it posted a 37% rise in annual profit after costing cutting helped boost margins and revenue inched higher. Mattiolio Woods trimmed its final dividend to 12.7p per share, down from 13.67p, giving a total dividend for the year of 20.0p, which was flat on-year. Immunodiagnostics group Oncimmune gained 4.78% to 153.5p on signing an autoantibody profiling collaboration with 'a leading global biopharmaceutical company' that it did not name.
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