The FTSE 100 traded 1% higher at 6,786 points on Wednesday morning after a surprise 0.5% interest cut from the US federal reserve yesterday seemed to initially spook markets rather than sooth fears.

Overnight gains in Asia were confined to Korea as the government announced a stimulus package.

However, S&P 500 futures rose 1.4% overnight on the resurgent performance of Joe Biden in Democratic Party primaries. Biden is now set up as the main challenger to democratic Bernie Sanders.

US treasury yields hit new lows with the 10-year note touching 1% in response to the emergency fed rate cut. Brent Crude prices were flat at $51.8 while currencies were also stable with the pound trading at $1.27.

The biggest gainer was polyhalite fertilizer producer Sirius Minerals (SXX:AIM) following the voting through of its takeover  by Anglo American (AAL), lifting the shares 17% to 5.5p in line with the offer price.

The largest faller was property company Intu Properties (INTU), with the shares plummeting 34% to 8.5p after the shopping centre owner’s plans to strengthen its balance sheet fell through as uncertainty in equity and property investment markets put a number of investors off participating in a planned equity placing.

On the charge were shares in Infrastructure products supplier Hill & Smith (HILS), up 6% to £14.58 after it posted 9% growth in full-year revenues to £694.7m and 3% higher pre-tax profits to £61.8m.

Shares in insurer Legal and General (LGEN) gained 1.4% to 269p after the company reported a slight fall in annual profit, as growth in its investment business was held back by a fall in UK and US government bond yields.

Pre-tax profit for the year through December dipped 1% to £2.1bn, although gross written premiums rose 6%.

On the up were shares in packaging company DS Smith (SMDS), adding 3% to 331.8p following a positive trading statement as it experienced positive like-for-like corrugated box volumes in the second-half.

Shares in packaging company MPAC Group (MPAC) reversed earlier gains of as much as 6% to trade 2.7% lower at 297p despite swinging to a full-year profit and reinstating its dividend as restructuring efforts paid off.

Pre-tax profit for the year through December amounted to £5.4m, compared to a loss of £7.4m on-year, while revenues rose 52% to £88.8m and new orders climbed 37%.

Mining company Polymetal International (POLY) posted a 36% rise in annual profit and hiked its dividend 71% after it benefited from higher gold and silver prices. The shares nudged up 1% to £12.7.

Net earnings for the year through December increased to $483m, up from $355m on-year.

Sausage skin manufacturer Devro (DVO) cut its profit outlook as sales of collagen products fell short of expectations in the second of the half of the year.

The company said it expected to report underlying operating profit for the year in the range of £39m to £40m. The rebased expectations were roughly in-line with a 17 January update, giving some relief and lifting the shares 5% to 152.4.

Gift bags and Christmas cracker-maker IG Design (IGR) said production volumes in China would increase over the coming weeks following the coronavirus outbreak in the country, pushing the shares up 0.5% to 748p.



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Issue Date: 04 Mar 2020