Against a backdrop of US markets hitting new all time highs, UK stocks open firmer with the FTSE 100 up 0.23% in early trading to 7,527 and the FTSE 250 up 0.25% to 19,492.

The best-performing sectors are house-builders, general industrials and oil and gas equipment and services.

The biggest mover in the FTSE 100 is insurance provider Hiscox (HSX), down 5% to £16.58 after it told investors in a trading update that loss estimates across the industry from last year’s hurricane season are significantly worse than previously thought.

The company expects to deliver a pre-tax profit of around $150-170m for the six months to 30 June. This includes an estimated investment return of $150m to the end of June, having benefited from further market movements in the second quarter.

Another FTSE 100 constituent, advertising company WPP (WPP), moves 0.3% higher to 958p after it proposes the sale of a 60% stake in its research and data business Kantar to private equity firm Bain Capital and return £1bn to shareholders.

WPP said the deal will ‘unlock the full potential’ of Kantar while still allowing the firm to benefit from its growth going forward.

Meanwhile shares in troubled travel group Thomas Cook (TCG), one of the nation’s most-loved holiday companies, fall to an all-time low of just 7p, down a whopping 45% after it says it is in rescue talks with banks and its largest shareholder, Fosun.

As part of the rescue deal most of the group's bank loans and outstanding bonds will be converted into equity, causing massive dilution for existing shareholders.

Thomas Cook admits it needs a large cash injection so that it has 'sufficient liquidity to trade over the Winter 2019/20 season' when bookings tend to drop significantly.

If a rescue deal is agreed, Fosun will end up with a controlling stake in Thomas Cook’s tour operator business and a significant minority stake in its airline, which the travel group had initially put up for sale.

Car dealer Lookers (LOOK) is also having a bad day with its shares plunging more than 25% to just 35p after it issues a profit warning.

The company cautioned that ‘challenging conditions’ in the second quarter would continue into the second half of the year, meaning that will profits would be lower than forecast.

While trading was good in the first quarter, second quarter new car registrations were down 4.6% which combined with lower margins on used cars means first half pre-tax profits will be in the region of £32m compared with £43m last year.

Further down the market, Gym Group (TGG) climbed 3% to 251p after reporting strong numbers for the half-year to 30 June.

Total memberships were up 10.6% to 796,000, while revenue jumped 26.9% to £74m. The firm also reported 5.6% growth in average revenue per member per month, a key metric in the gym industry, to £15.47.

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Issue Date: 12 Jul 2019