The FTSE 100 had crept above the 7,000 mark by midday as investors awaited the latest update on monetary policy from the European Central Bank and jobless claims from the US later.
FTSE 250 construction firm Morgan Sindall (MGNS) was one of the day's big winners, surging 12% to £23.68 as it unveiled its fourth round of earnings upgrades in the last 12 months.
Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR) reported a 5% increase in underlying sales for the second quarter, in line with market estimates, thanks to a recovery in food and refreshment sales which rose 8.1% on an organic basis.
The firm was able to raise prices in its food and refreshment division and its beauty and personal care division, whereas in home care there was a slight erosion of pricing as promotions were higher than the year-ago period. Shares fell 5.7% to £40.57.
The easing of lockdown restrictions led to a significant bump in demand from the hospitality sector and in the food-on-the-go market. Shares were up 1.4% at 973.5p.
Bus operator FirstGroup (FGP) reported it had sold its First Student and First Transit units for more than expected and therefore it would return a higher than expected £500 million to shareholders this autumn. Shares accelerated 4% to 82.7p.
Bus and rail operator Go-Ahead Group (GOG) announced it had appointed Christian Schreyer as its new chief executive from the start of November. Schreyer was previously chief executive for northern and central Europe at French public transport operator Transdev. Shares added 2.8% to £10.12.
Kitchen supplier Howden Joinery (HWDN) posted strong first results with sales up 68.8% on the same period last year and 20% above the first half of 2019 thanks to the continued growth of the repair, maintenance and improvement market.
The firm left its guidance unchanged, having raised estimates earlier this month, but it reinstated its interim dividend and said it re-start its £50 million share buyback programme. Shares climbed 2% to 896p.
Air conditioning group Volution (FAN) reported full year revenue growth of more than 20% on an underlying basis and said earnings would be ahead of market expectations thanks to healthy margins, despite supply chain challenges. Shares breezed 4.4% higher to 473p.
Appliance safety control firm Strix (KETL:AIM) posted an upbeat trading update for the six months to June with revenue growth predicted to be around 50% thanks to the inclusion of LAICA and price rises to offset cost inflation. Shares gained 1.6% to 321p.
The offer, the second in recent weeks, consisted of 71p per share in cash and the remainder in Marlowe shares, but was rejected. Restore shares soared 13.6% to 477p.
Podcast firm Audioboom (BOOM:AIM) rejected a possible offer from All Active Asset Capital (AAA:AIM) on the basis it ‘significantly undervalues the business, its progress and potential to capitalise on its market position to generate value for the shareholders’.
In addition, the deal would mean Audioboom shareholders swapping their shares for shares of AAA, where trading has been suspended since the end of April and is due to be cancelled at the end of this month. Audioboom gained another 5.4% to 980p.
MSI made its initial approach to Augean in late May but talks – presumably over pricing – are set to go on until mid-August with no guarantee of an offer. Augean shares trod water at 295p.