London midday: Stocks gain ahead of budget
London stocks were firmly in the black by midday on Wednesday ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget.
The FTSE 100 was up 0.9% at 6,672.97, while sterling was flat against the dollar at 1.3953.
Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: "A lot has been pre-announced (leaked), but we still expect the rabbit out of the hat moment - perhaps not immediate tax hikes, perhaps direct stimulus cheques for all (this works better than furlough) but that would be too much to ask.
"Sunak will display a total lack of imagination, Eat Out to Help Out mark II, for instance, more furlough and measures to stoke house prices, or the housing market, whatever way you look at it. Housebuilders are higher again today - if there is no extension of the stamp duty holiday they would pull back.
"Overall I think the market will like it as it will amount to more stimulus today, and despite the recent jump in yields I don’t feel the bond vigilantes are anything like strong enough to really take on gilts today."
In equity markets, travel & leisure stocks were the top performers, with British Airways and Iberia owner IAG, Premier Inn owner Whitbread, Cineworld and Wetherspoons all higher.
Polymetal gained as the precious metals miner posted record full-year net earnings.
Persimmon was also up after the housebuilder said forward sales were 15% higher than a year ago as it reported an 18% decline in annual profit. Rivals followed suit, with Taylor Wimpey and Barratt up, boosted also by expectations the chancellor will announce in his budget a mortgage guarantee scheme to help people with smaller deposits and possibly the extension of the stamp duty holiday.
Software company Micro Focus surged to the top of the FTSE 250 after signing a commercial agreement with Amazon Web Services.
Waste management company Biffa pushed higher after lifting its full-year expectations.
On the downside, Avast fell even after it reported a rise in full-year profit and revenue, underpinned by growth in its consumer direct desktop business as more people worked from home due to the pandemic.
Hiscox slumped after the insurer said it swung to a full-year loss driven by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as gross written premiums were held steady.
FTSE 100 - Risers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 213.10p 5.13%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,578.00p 5.05%
Persimmon (PSN) 2,835.00p 4.61%
Fresnillo (FRES) 951.00p 4.12%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 501.60p 3.98%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 171.60p 3.44%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 707.40p 3.39%
Informa (INF) 570.00p 3.37%
Barclays (BARC) 167.68p 3.37%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,481.00p 2.92%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Avast (AVST) 445.80p -3.96%
Rightmove (RMV) 590.60p -1.04%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,200.00p -1.03%
Admiral Group (ADM) 3,167.00p -1.03%
SSE (SSE) 1,320.00p -0.94%
National Grid (NG.) 820.80p -0.89%
SEGRO (SGRO) 914.40p -0.61%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,380.50p -0.58%
B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 545.00p -0.55%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 11,090.00p -0.40%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 512.00p 16.74%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 112.55p 7.70%
FirstGroup (FGP) 90.95p 6.56%
Biffa (BIFF) 271.00p 5.65%
Liontrust Asset Management (LIO) 1,320.00p 5.60%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 2,016.00p 5.11%
AO World (AO.) 302.50p 4.67%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 215.80p 4.45%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 193.45p 4.43%
OSB Group (OSB) 448.40p 4.42%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hiscox Limited (DI) (HSX) 881.00p -10.25%
Renishaw (RSW) 6,540.00p -5.22%
Provident Financial (PFG) 266.00p -2.42%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,908.50p -2.05%
Rotork (ROR) 368.40p -1.23%
GCP Infrastructure Investments Ltd (GCP) 100.20p -0.79%
Schroder Oriental Income Fund Ltd. (SOI) 276.00p -0.72%
Trainline (TRN) 507.50p -0.68%
Impax Environmental Markets (IEM) 446.00p -0.67%
GCP Student Living (DIGS) 153.40p -0.65%