UK stocks opened higher on Thursday amid increasing signs that the UK and EU were poised to sign a post-Brexit trade deal.

At around 8.30am, the benchmark FTSE 100 index moved 0.3% higher to 6,516.98.

The more domestically-focused FTSE 250, considered a barometer for Brexit sentiment, gained 0.54% to 20,408.16.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to hold a press conference later on Thursday morning, at which he is hoped to confirm that an historic Christmas Eve agreement had been reached.

COMPANY NEWS

In corporate news, mining company BHP (BHP) shed 0.3% to £19.60 after it said production had restarted at its Samarco iron ore venture with Vale in Brazil, around five years after it was shuttered due to a catastrophic dam collapse.

The mine was initially expected to produce around 8 million tonnes of iron ore pellets per annum, BHP said.

Energy efficiency investor SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust (SEIT) added 0.1% to 107.61p following news that it had agreed to acquire US solar assets from funds managed by Blackstone for around $150 million.

The deal would see SDCL buy commercial and industrial on-site solar and energy storage projects, together with a 50% interest in the platform that created them, Onyx Renewable Partners.

Payments group Network International (NETW) firmed 2.7% to 291.6p after it said it was reviewing a report critical of the company by short-seller ShadowFall Research related to its links to failed German group Wirecard.

Network International said while many issues raised in the report had already been addressed, the historical natural of some of the claims meant its response wouldn’t come until the end of January.

Molecular diagnostics group Yourgene Health (YGEN:AIM) firmed 3.4% to 15.25p on news that its genomic services business had been added to a UK-government-approved Covid-19 private testing providers list.

The listing was for the Test to Release for International Travel scheme introduced on 15 December, which was designed to reduce quarantine periods for travellers arriving in the UK.

Neuroscience analytics group Ixico (IXI:AIM) climbed 4.2% to 105p, having won a £3.4 million contract for a trial investigating the rare neurodegenerative condition Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 3, also known as Machado-Joseph disease.

Television distribution and production group DCD Media (DCD:AIM) was flat at 200p as it posted a rise in first-half profit after sales were buoyed by shows including 'The Secrets She Keeps' and 'Penn & Teller: Fool Us in Vegas'.

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Issue Date: 24 Dec 2020