The FTSE 100 made a storming start to trading on Wednesday ahead of a vital Budget that investors hope will oil the wheels of Britain's economic recovery.

There is plenty of speculation floating about, with weekend reports of tax grabs, already experts predict Rishi Sunak to be largely fiscally supportive of the pandemic-ravaged UK economy.

Events on Wall Street, which endured another soft session after last week’s inflation wobble, were shrugged off again by London traders.

The FTSE 100 rallied 1.2% in early trading to 6,693.93, while mid-caps rose by a similar margin, the FTSE 250 up at 21,440.56.

Crude oil prices helped, as some poise was recovered after the sell-off ahead of OPEC+ meeting Thursday. Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) and BP (BP.) rose 1.8% and 1.7% respectively.

Covid bounce-back stocks Whitbread (WTB) and BA-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) were ahead 4.5% and 3% respectively at £35.64 and 209.22p.


Infrastructure software firm Micro Focus (MCRO) was the pick of the FTSE 250 as it jumped 13% at 496.2p after inking a big commercial agreement with Amazon Web Services.

The agreement would see the companies 'accelerate the modernization of mainframe applications and workloads' of large enterprises to Amazon's cloud computing products.

Insurance company Hiscox (HSX) tumbled 13% to 856.79p after it swung to a $268.5 million annual pre-tax loss, driven by event cancellation and business interruption claims owing to the pandemic.

Hiscox also axed its final dividend, although did say it would consider resuming payments in 2021 when it published interim results.

House builder Persimmon (PSN) rose 0.3% to £27.17, even as it reported a 25% fall in annual profit and slashed its dividend to 110p per share, after construction markets were battered by the pandemic.

On a brighter note, Persimmon said it was committed to a total dividend of 235p per share in 2021, and was targeting a full return to 2019 home completion levels in 2022.

Polymetal’s (POLY) prelims appeared to please the market as the gold miner topped the FTSE with a 3% gain to £14.793 despite gold prices continuing to drift.

Mining titan Rio Tinto (RIO) fell 0.7% to 64.78 on announcing that chairman Simon Thompson would stand down next year, joining other leaders that have departed the company after it blasted ancient Australian cave sites.

Senior directors Sam Laidlaw and Simon McKeon would lead the search for Thompson's replacement.


Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) added 0.5% to £69.14 after it won a favourable court ruling in the US against Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Kindeva Drug Delivery upholding patent claims.

Gambling software group Playtech (PTEC) added 2.1% to 499.1p following neww that it had appointed Brian Mattingley as its chairman.

Mattingley was currently chairman of rival gambling group 888 and would take up his new role at Playtech on 1 June.

Recruitment company Page (PAGE) rose 0.7% to 490.09p, despite booking an 89% slump in annual profit after the pandemic hit job markets.

Page said there remained a high degree of global macro-economic uncertainty in many of its markets, though it was encouraged by recent government announcements about lockdowns easing.

Advertising company WPP (WPP) gained 1.0% to 889.9p, having acquired commerce services group for retailers NN4M, for an undisclosed sum. Edinburgh-based NN4M employed 50 people and worked with brands including Selfridges, Nestle and River Island.

Packaging company DS Smith (SMDS) shed 0.3% to 402p on announcing that it was trading in line with its expectations, with higher box volumes offset by a rise in input costs.

DS Smith said it had started to recover these additional costs through higher packaging prices.

Africa-focused fuel retailer Vivo Energy (VVO) nudged 0.2% higher to 89.7p, even having booked a 40% drop in annual profit, owing to lower demand for petrol during the pandemic.

Vivo, however, also said it would increase its dividend payout ratio amid a recovery in trading conditions.

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Issue Date: 03 Mar 2021