UK stocks had given back a lot of the earlier gains at midday on Tuesday but remained in positive territory as investors attempted to balance reopening optimism with an accompanying surge in coronavirus infections.

At 12pm, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 0.3% at 6,863 points, stabilising somewhat after registering heavy losses on Monday when it closed down 2.3%.

CORPORATE DEVELOPMENTS

In corporate news, Morrisons (MRW) was marked down 0.1% 261.57p after Apollo said it was no longer planning to make a bid for the supermarket chain and was instead considering joining a rival £6.3 billion offer led by Fortress.

Mining titan BHP (BHP) advanced 0.6% to £21.59 after it released a mixed fourth quarter production report that showed year-on-year declines in iron ore and copper output, but rises in petroleum and coal production.

Low-cost carrier Easyjet (EZJ) gained 1.6% to 782.6p as the airline forecast a jump in capacity in the fourth quarter after reporting narrower third quarter losses as revenue was boosted by a rise in passenger numbers amid easing pandemic-related travel restrictions.

In the beverages sector, IRN-BRU maker AG Barr (BAG) improved 0.6% to 530p on the news trading since March’s full-year results has been better than expected, driven by customer restocking in the hospitality sector and the positive performance of recent product launches.

AG Barr now expects profits for the year to January 2022 will be ‘slightly ahead’ of the £37.4 million generated in the year before the pandemic.

Online wine retailer Virgin Wines (VINO:AIM) fizzed up 3.5% to 204.5p as it beat forecasts for the second time since its IPO, announcing a positive end to the year to June with strong levels of customer demand in May and June.

Sales and EBITDA are now anticipated to be ‘marginally higher’ than previous expectations and the online wine purveyor assured that positive sales momentum has continued into July, despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the opening up of hospitality across England.

However, premium carbonated mixers brand Fevertree Drinks (FEVR:AIM) softened 7.5% to £22.65. Despite increasing full-year revenue guidance to £295 million-to-£304 million, Fevertree warned growing challenges from Covid-related logistics disruption is putting pressure on its margins.

IN OTHER NEWS

Elsewhere, luxury interiors specialist Sanderson Design (SDG:AIM) skipped 12.8% higher to 166.4p on the news profits for the six months to July 2021 are expected to be ahead of management expectations thanks to continued positive trading.

Music and audio equipment retailer Focusrite (TUNE:AIM) gained 0.8% to £14.16 as it forecast a full-year profit ‘significantly’ ahead of market expectations, thanks to rising revenue and cost cutting, although the company also warned of supply constraints and higher freight and shipping costs.

Floorcoverings maker Victoria (VCP:AIM) cheapened 1.5% to £10.79 on profit taking after a strong run, as it rolled out record sales, operating profits and cash generation for the year ended 3 April 2021, its eighth consecutive record year delivered despite operational challenges created by the pandemic.

Audio visual distributor Midwich (MIDW:AIM) was marked up 8% to 568p as it upgraded full-year sales and profit guidance amid continued positive sales momentum.

And shares in exploration and development company Ariana Resources (AAU:AIM) advanced 4.2% to 5p following its announcement of a planned special dividend.

FOR A LIST OF FTSE GAINERS AND LOSERS SEE HERE

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Issue Date: 20 Jul 2021