Following a five-day losing run, the FTSE 100 was up 37.8 points at 6,281 by lunchtime on Friday as investors put aside worries over global growth and disappointing US earnings to drive the blue-chip benchmark higher.
After a volatile week for the sector, miners were in demand with the likes of Vedanta Resources (VED), up 5.4% at £11.43, Eurasian Natural Resources (ENRC), 5.9% ahead at 243p and Randgold Resources (RRS), 3.1% higher at £47.57, all making gains.
Investors punted on High Street bookie William Hill (WMH), bidding shares up 4.2% to 407p despite signs of growth moderating during the first quarter to the end of March. In the face of poor weather and a disappointing Cheltenham, the £3.4 billion cap, which has recently expanded into Australia and taken full control of William Hill Online, still had a strong start to the year.
William Hill, which said the Grand National post-quarter end proved 'a major success', reported net revenues up 15% and operating profits 8% ahead in the opening three months of the year.
Online sales were up 21% year-on-year with mobile gaming revenues rocketing 298% higher. Number crunchers at Panmure Gordon are positive on the stock: 'We retain our Buy recommendation and 475p price target,' the broker writes in a note issued to clients this morning, 'highlighting the potential to see the group's rating expand, as online profitability builds, whilst the group is well placed from a regulatory standpoint.'
Widespread sales declines at the start of the year hit Spectris (SXS) hard and the shares crashed by 12.5% to £19.49, with a 15% Far East revenue slump particularly worrying. The Asia-Pacific region has been a growth engine for the industrial controls and instrumentation kit supplier but contract sign-off delays seem to be spreading beyond Europe and the US. Click here to read our take on the story.
Microwave kit and filter specialist Filtronic (FTC) remains a strong runner as investors continue to switch on to its 4G mobile network infrastructure story. The shares rose 7% to 68p, adding to yesterday's 15% jump sparked by confirmation of a forecast-thumping 2012.
One of the day's big gainers was Dart (DTG:AIM), owner of low fares family airline Jet2.com, which soared 10.5% higher to 163.75p on a positive pre-close statement which triggered forecast upgrades. The £213 million cap cheered with news taxable profits for the year to March will beat expectations 'as a result of lower than anticipated Winter losses.'
Investors also responded favourably to positive trading noises surrounding Dart's package holidays business Jet2holidays, where brisk business in turn benefits the airline, as well as its food industry distribution arm Fowler Welch.
Michael O'Brien, a scribe at house broker, Canaccord Genuity, has upgraded his 2013 profit before tax forecast from £34.5 million to £37 million for earnings of 19.9p. Reiterating his 'buy' rating on Dart and raising his target price from 152p to 204p, the analyst ratchets up his 2014 profit estimate from £35 million to £37.5 million for earnings of 20.4p.
Hi-spec cameras and microscopes kit developer Andor Technology (AND:AIM) is making another run towards its nemesis 400p ceiling, the shares up over 5% to 354.5p. Belfast-based £110 million cap has failed several times to break beyond what seems to be a psychological barrier for a market unsure of the company's immediate prospects after its not-so-reassuring update earlier this month.
In other developments, Charles Wilson-led food wholesaler Booker (BOK) shed half-a-penny at 116.7p, despite the Competition Commission finally giving the all-clear to its acquisition of cash and carry rival Makro.
Elsewhere, merger and acquisition (M&A) activity stirred share prices. FTSE 250 consultancy group RPS (RPS) put on 4p at 255.5p as investors gave the thumbs up to the acquisition of US-based oil services consultancy Knowledge Reservoir. The £550 million cap is paying £12.8 million to get its hands on Houston-headquartered Knowledge Reservoir in a deal which raises its game in the energy sector.
Another name nudging higher on M&A news was Regenersis (RGS:AIM), the mobile phone repair specialist which rose 3.5p to 196p. Investors seem to like the look of its £1.5 million bolt-on acquisition of Landela, South Africa's largest set-top box repair business operating out of Johannesburg and East London.