Following on from recording its biggest monthly gain in three decades in November, London's FTSE 100 started December in bright fashion with blue chip stocks soaring in early trade.

At around 8.30am, the UK's benchmark index jumped 1.44% to 6,356.15, as positive Chinese factory data fueled global economic recovery hopes that are already supported by upbeat coronavirus vaccine developments.

China’s manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) rose to 52.1 in November from 51.4 in October, the highest PMI reading since September 2017 and above market expectations. Any reading above 50 signals growth and anything below 50 contraction.

The data was also a boon for Asian stocks, with China's Shanghai Composite gaining 1.77%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong up 0.86% and Japan's Nikkei 225 up 1.34%.

While in the world of commodities, gold gained 0.87% to $1,792.88 an ounce, and brent crude oil futures were up 0.57% to $47.96 per barrel.

CORPORATE NEWS

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN) gained 1.4% to £79.14 after it agreed to sell the rights to cholesterol drug Crestor and associated medicines in over 30 countries in Europe, except the UK and Spain, to German drugmaker Grunenthal for up to $350 million.

The company said it would continue to manufacture and supply Crestor, a statin approved for the treatment of dyslipidaemia and hypercholesterolaemia, to Grunenthal during a transition period.

Pet product retailer and veterinary group Pets at Home (PETS) fell 1.8% to 411.8p as it sold five specialist referral practices to rival Linnaeus for up to £100 million.

The sum included £80 million in cash and a deferred cash consideration of £20 million, payable upon certain financial milestones being met in the future. Linnaeus is a UK subsidiary of US giant Mars Petcare.

Food and drink ingredients supplier Tate & Lyle (TATE) increased 1.1% to 645p as it acquired stevia business Sweet Green Fields for an undisclosed sum.

Sweet Green Fields revenue for the year ending 31 December was expected to be around $50 million, including revenue for products Tate & Lyle currently sold as a distribution agent.

The company said stevia was one of the fastest growing low-calorie sweeteners used globally, particularly in beverages, dairy and snacks.

Banking group Lloyds (LLOY) jumped over 4% to 37p as it confirmed the departure date of outgoing chief executive Antonio Horta-Osario.

Horta-Osario will step down on 30 April 2021, following which he will become chairman of Credit Suisse. The company said on Monday that he would be replaced by senior HSBC executive Charlie Nunn, with chief financial officer William Chalmers potentially filling in on an interim basis until Nunn takes the reins.

OTHER COMPANY NEWS

Baillie Gifford-run Monks Investment Trust (MNKS) rose 0.6% to £12.74 after it posted a positive first-half performance that beat its benchmark.

Monks' net asset value total return for the six months through September was 26.8%, compared to a 10.2% rise on the FTSE World Index.

No interim dividend was declared, though Monks said a single final dividend would typically be paid after its annual general meeting, reflecting a focus on capital growth.

Building materials company Grafton (GFTU) firmed 1% to 860p following news that it acquired AVC, a UK manufacturer of bespoke wooden staircases trading as StairBox, for £44 million.

Mining engineering group Weir (WEIR) advanced 2.1% to £17.10, having won a £95 million order to provide aftermarket components and services to the Iron Bridge magnetite project in Western Australia.

Ground engineering contractor Van Elle (VANL) dropped 5.2% to 44.1p after it forecast a 22% drop in first-half revenue as lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic bit hard in the first quarter.

Flooring retailer Topps Tiles (TPT) shed 0.7% to 55.6p as it swung to a full-year loss and scrapped its final dividend after sales slipped due to pandemic-related store closures and it wrote down its budding commercial tiles business.

On a more positive note, Topps Tiles said like-for-like sales had bounced back by 16.5% in the fourth quarter, and by 19.6% in the first eight weeks of the new financial year.

Online women's fashion retailer Sosandar (SOS:AIM) fell 3.8% to 19p despite narrowing first-half losses after sales jumped 52%.

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Issue Date: 01 Dec 2020