The major UK equity markets continued to build on earlier gains at lunchtime trading on Wednesday.

Travel stocks were in demand following the government’s confirmation that Covid testing will be dropped for double jabbed travellers arriving in England.

At lunchtime the blue chip FTSE 100 equity index was 1.76% higher at 7501.16 and the mid-cap FTSE 250 firmed 1.5% to 21,976.03.

All eyes will be focused on today’s US Federal Reserve meeting.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: 'With today’s US Federal Reserve meeting firmly in view the UK’s flagship stock index has become somewhat dislocated from other global benchmarks thanks to the absence of big technology companies in its ranks.

'How long this trend continues remains to be seen. The Fed’s update comes with the first US rate hike, perhaps of four or five this year, expected in March.

'It remains to be seen if its members will do anything to calm the recent volatility in the markets, particularly given the current tensions between Russia and the Ukraine.

'While its primary job is to keep a lid on inflation, the Fed has shown a willingness in the past to consider the market response when determining its policy.'

MARKET NEWS

Travel shares are in favour, with British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) up 7% to 158p and TUI (TUI) surging 5.5% to 259p.

Fresnillo PLC (FRES) plunged 11.3% to 714.8p after the precious metals miner missed silver production targets and warned 2022 would be lower than last year.

Silver production of 53.1mln ounces in 2021 was below expectations of 53.5mln-59.5mln although gold production of 751,200 ounces, while down 2.4% on 2020, was ahead of guidance of 675,000 to 725,000 ounces.

But with the pandemic hitting its workforce and new labour laws in Mexico limiting the use of contractors, it forecast lower production this year of 50.5mln to 56.5mln ounces of silver and 600,000 to 650,000 ounces of gold.

Gambling software group Playtech (PTEC) dropped 1.8% to 629p after it reiterated its support for a £2.7 billion bid for the company by Aristocrat Leisure amid speculation it could explore alternatives if shareholders block the deal.

Sky News reported that Playtech was drawing up contingency plans to break up the company and sell its operations if the takeover by Aristocrat was blocked by some Asian-based shareholders.

Enterprise software group Sage (SGE) fell 4.4% to 728p on announcing its first-quarter revenue rose 5%, putting it on track to meet its annual guidance.

Sage's revenue for the three months through December increased to £458 million, up from £435 million year-on-year.

It goes from bad to worse for gift wrap designer and maker IG Design (IGR:AIM) as supply chain squeezes, costs increases and lower sales spark a huge reaction from investors.

Shares in the company more than halved in the wake of its latest announcement, falling almost 56% to 113p.

Wealth manager M&G (MNG) added 1.7% to 216p amid news that it had partnered with digital investment specialist Moneyfarm to provide direct investment services to UK consumers.

M&G said its UK wealth management arm would use Moneyfarm's existing technology, digital capabilities and investment guidance to back its own branded proposition.

Fellow wealth manager Brewin Dolphin (BRW) firmed 2% to 331p after it reported a 3.7% rise in first-quarter funds under management, buoyed by net inflows.

Another wealth manager, Quilter (QLT), fell 4% to137p despite announcing that its annual assets under management had jumped 13%, thanks to fresh inflows and positive market movements.

Budget carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ) ascended 3.7% to £44.19 even after it booked a deeper third-quarter loss as the Omicron variant put pressure on travel markets.

Wizz Air's net losses for the three months through December were €267.5 million, though the red ink partly owed to ramped up spending as the company prepared for a return to more normal conditions.

Pet products and veterinary services group Pets at Home (PETS) rose 4% to 434.6p, having upgraded its annual profit guidance after its third-quarter revenue grew 5.8% year-on-year.

Pets at Home's underlying pre-tax profit for the year through March, excluding any potential impact from accounting changes, was now expected to rise to at least £140 million.

Online trading platform CMC Markets (CMCX) added 3.6% to 237.5p on reaffirming that its net operating income would be in-line with guidance as momentum continued in the third quarter.

Bus and train group Stagecoach (SGC) advanced 1.9% to 93.45p despite it postponing a sale of its inter-city coach businesses, due a regulatory enforcement order related to its proposed merger with National Express.

The Competition and Markets Authority issued an interim order preventing National Express or Stagecoach from selling material UK assets while it probes the deal.

Oil producer Tullow Oil (TLW) slipped 2.0% to 55.7p after its annual production and revenue both fell following lower output from wells in Ghana.

Tullow Oil also released broad-ranging production guidance for 2022 with a midpoint below its output in 2021.

Concrete levelling technology group Somero Enterprises (SOM:AIM) firmed 4% to 556p, having again upgraded its annual earnings and revenue guidance amid a robust performance in the US.

Somero, however, also forecast flat earnings in 2022 due investment spending, including staff additions.

Document and data management group Restore (RST:AIM) rallied 3.8% to 471p as it upgraded its annual guidance, citing positive organic growth, efficiency gains and a contribution from eight acquisitions.

Disclaimer: The author and editor of this story own shares in AB Bell, the owner of Shares

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Issue Date: 26 Jan 2022