UK markets staged a firm rally in early trading on Monday, following Asian markets higher and clawing back some of the heavy losses chalked-up last week.

At 9am, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up close on 2.7% at 6,756.35, while the mid cap FTSE 250 is also around 2.5% higher at 19,803.06.

However, by midday those gains had been entirely wiped out with the FTSE 100 dipping 0.5% to 6,546.61. The FTSE 250 was also down, about 1% lower at 19,134.43.

Names leading the blue-chips higher include Rentokil Initial (RTO), Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) and Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK), all rallying around 5%, but British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) remains under pressure, down another 5.3% at 444p. Shares in the airline have lost around 29% since 21 February.

FINANCIAL CRUNCH

In corporate news, troubled UAE healthcare company NMC Health (NMC) has hired advisers to help with talks with its banks and is asking ‘for continued support and an informal standstill in relation to existing facilities from its lenders to achieve an immediate stabilisation of the group's financing.’

The company, which is being investigated by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority, said it had hired Moelis to ‘support and advise on NMC’s discussions with its lenders’.

NMC shares remain suspended at 938.4p.

Insurance group Hiscox (HSX) rose 7.7% to £13.20, despite it reporting 61% drop in pre-tax profit as large catastrophe events including storms in the US, the Caribbean and Japan led to a surge in claims.

Hiscox also upped its premium revenue, generated strong investment returns and raised its annual dividend 3.5% to 29.6c.

Engineering group Senior (SNR) jumped 8% to 152.7p, even as it booked a 53% fall in annual profit after it was hurt by the grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft.

Senior also posted a 3% revenue boost and nudged up its dividend by 1%. The company said it was closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak, including the potential impact of any macroeconomic disruption on its end markets, supply chain and customers.

MIDDLE EASTERN PROMISE

Budget carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ) rose 0.5% to £34.32, having agreed to form an Abu Dhabi-based joint venture with Abu Dhabi Developmental.

The venture, dubbed Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, would be a low-cost airline that would launch its operations at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the fall of 2020.

Software company Sage (SGE) added 2.5% to 698.8p as it agreed to sell its Brazilian assets to local management for up to £10m.

AstraZeneca (AZN) gained 3.9% to £70.58 on completing the sale of the global commercial rights of its hypertension medicines to Atnahs Pharma for up to $390m.

Textiles company Johnson Service (JSG) rallied 8% to 197.78p as its profit was boosted by recent acquisitions.

Africa-focused oil company Tower Resources (TRP:AIM) jumped 42% to 0.6p, having agreed to sell down a 24.5% stake in its Thali prospect off the coast of Cameroon to OilLR.

Hostel group Safestay (SSTY:AIM) firmed 2.2% to 27.6p, even as it announced that it would no longer acquire a hostel in Prague after the owner was unable to satisfy 'certain conditions'.

Cloud computing company Beeks Financial Cloud (BKS:AIM) rose 1.4% to 100.85p as its first-half profit rose 46% after revenue increased by nearly fifth.

Mining company Strategic Minerals (SML:AIM) jumped 12% to 0.48p on announcing that an arbitrator in the US would make a decision on a long-running claim against one of its major customers by 30 May.

The company also announced that its access to the Cobre magnetite stockpile had been rolled over until 31 March 2021.

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Issue Date: 02 Mar 2020