The FTSE 100 built on morning gains early in the afternoon session on Wednesday thanks to the promise of a firm start to US trade in New York.

The UK’s benchmark index had put on nearly 0.9% by 1pm to trade at 7,182.81, with mid-caps also putting on gains, the FTSE 250 up 0.7% at 24,285.61.

US stocks are expected to push higher on Wednesday ahead of manufacturing data, buoyed by hopes that interest rates across the pond will remain on hold for the foreseeable future even if the Federal Reserve starts to taper bond purchases.

Futures for the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P index 500 both gained 0.4%, while contracts for the tech-laden Nasdaq 100 added 0.3%.

London’s gains were led by 5% rallies for both media firm Informa (INF) and fast food delivery platform Just Eat Takeaway’s (JET), despite the latter facing expulsion from the blue-chip index.

Mining was the only sector to struggle after metal prices took a hit, with Antofagasta (ANTO) topping the FTSE 100 loserboard and Rio Tinto (RIO), Evraz (EVR) and BHP (BHP) all on the back foot. Oil and gas did better thanks to a modest 0.2% rise in per barrel prices, with Brent crude up 0.2% at $71.77.

MOVING ON THE MARKET

Magazines, books and snacks seller WH Smith (SMWH) lost 3.5% to £15.755 after the retailer said it expects to post a slight earnings beat for the year to August 2021, but also but also warned that profits for full year 2022 would be at the lower end of expectations.

Annual revenue for the year to August 2021 recovered to 71% of 2019 levels as footfall improved at travel locations and on the high street and the retailer remains confident that revenues will return to pre-Covid levels in the next two to three years.

‘Although the pace of recovery varies across our markets, we are financially strong and well placed to capitalise on the multiple growth opportunities in our key markets,’ insisted the company.

Digital transition company Kainos (KNOS) improved 0.7% to £19.75 after saying it expects revenue for the year to next March to beat current market expectations, though profit will still be in line with forecasts amid an increase in headcount.

Kainos said trading in the period since 1 April has ‘continued to be resilient’ across its two businesses: digital services and workday practice.

‘While the ongoing economic disruption caused by Covid-19 will be a feature in future trading periods, our outlook remains confident, which reflects our significant pipeline and robust backlog,’ added Kainos.

BABCOCK SELLS DIVISION

Defence contractor Babcock International (BAB) was bid up 1.4% to 368.2p after selling its oil and gas aviation business to CHC for £10 million.

888 (888) jumped 4% to 424.6p as the online gambling group booked a 14% rise in first half profit and guided for a ‘slight’ annual earnings beat, as the pandemic fails to dissuade people from having a punt at home.

Pre-tax profit for the six months to June increased to $57.9 million, up from $50.9 million year-on-year, as revenue climbed 29% to $528.4 million.

Utility company National Grid (NG.) nudged 0.8% higher to 949.5p after the Competition and Markets Authority cleared its acquisition of WPD.

Steel scaffolding provider Severfield (SFR) nudged 1% higher to 82p on news it has made a bright start to its financial year, although annual profit will be weighted to the second half.

ELSEWHERE ON THE MOVE

Russia-focused gold miner Petropavlovsk (POG) gained 1.1% to 21.2p as it swung to a first half profit, though its underlying performance weakened owing to a drop in production volumes.

Aviation services group John Menzies (MNZS) was marked up 1.2% to 328p after swinging to a modest first half profit thanks to cost-cutting and a gradual improvement in demand amid what is still a challenging time for the transport sector.

Confident about the long-term outlook, John Menzies said: ‘The prompt actions taken at the start of the pandemic have put us in a good position to prosper now the aviation sector has begun to recover.

Alternative fuel developer Quadrise Fuels (QFI:AIM) rose 5.4% to 4.5p after announcing positive test results for its flagship bioMSAR product.

And Churchill China (CHH:AIM) accelerated earlier gains to rise 3.5% to £19.45 as the ceramic tableware maker’s first half results confirmed trading has continued to recover strongly since the easing of Covid restrictions on the hospitality sector.

Churchill China said current trading is ahead of the comparable period in 2019 with the company seeing share gains across key markets.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account.

Issue Date: 01 Sep 2021