UK stocks clocked-up solid gains on Thursday as positive sentiment and improving economic data from the US drove share prices higher with the FTSE 100 index gaining 1.3% to 7,125 points at the close.

Weekly US jobless claims reduced more than expected while manufacturing data for June showed activity expanding at a solid pace, albeit slightly less than the prior month. Prices paid meanwhile jumped to a 42-year high.

Oil prices remained strong after OPEC indicated the leading oil producing nations would expand oil production at a slower pace than feared. Brent crude traded 1.4% higher to $75.50 a barrel.

COMPANY NEWS

Primark owner AB Foods (ABF) raised its guidance for full year pre-tax earnings to 'not less than £550 million' against market estimates of £525 million.

The firm said trading at both the clothing retailer and its sugar division was ahead of previous management forecasts. The shares gained 4.4% to £23.13.

Sports retailer JD Sports Fashion (JD.) said it was on track to deliver profit of at least £550 million following encouraging reopening in the UK and enhanced demand in the US as the government rolled out further stimulus cheques. The shares added nearly 5% to 964.8p.

SSE (SSE) -owned Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Distribution has published its draft business plan for 2023 to 2028, setting out how it will accelerate investment in its networks and services to power communities to net zero. SSE's shares gained 0.7% to £15.11.

After the market close low-cost gym operator, The Gym Group (GYM) announced it was raising £31 million via a share placing to accelerate the expansion of its estate. The company said it is targeting 40 new sites over the next 18 months.

Network International Holdings (NETW) shares rose 3.8% to 379.5p as it said it is "making good progress" in closing the acquisition of DPO group, having gained the necessary regulatory approvals.

Online electrical retailer AO World (AO.) reported a sharp increase in annual profit as revenue was driven by the continued shift to online shopping.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, pre-tax profit jumped 1,900% to £20 million year-on-year as revenue increased 62% to £1.66 billion. The shares dropped 0.6% to 251.5p.

Building materials supplier Grafton (GFTU) said it had entered into an agreement to sell its traditional merchanting business in the UK for an enterprise value of £520 million to Huws Gray. The shares gained 3.6% to £11.88.

Power company Drax (DRX) said it had agreed to acquire a 20% stake in Alabama Pellets, the joint venture which owns the Demopolis and Aliceville pellet plants, from The Westervelt Company, for $29.7 million. The shares added 0.66% to 426.6p.

Listed infrastructure investment company International Public Partnerships (IPP) said it had reached financial close on a new police headquarters in South-East Hesse in Offenbach, Germany. The shares fell 0.2% to 166.7p.

Shares in software company Aveva (AVV) rose 3% to £38.19 as it unveiled new financial targets following a 'good' start to fiscal 2022. The company achieved approximately 10% revenue growth in the first two months of the financial year.

Specialty plastics maker Biome Technologies (BIOM:AIM) warned that revenues this year and next year would be 'materially below' market forecasts after a US customer delayed orders due to issues at its plant.

The firm also blamed delays and cancellations in transporting its products by sea. The shares crumbled 21% to 379p.

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Issue Date: 01 Jul 2021