London open: Stocks gain as worries about Omicron ease
London stocks rose in early trade on Wednesday following heavy losses earlier in the week, taking their cue from a positive session in Asia as concerns about the new Omicron variant eased.
At 0830 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 1% at 7,131.76.
Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: "UK markets continue to blow hot and cold in the face of Omicron uncertainty, in terms of both the medical and economic impact. Taking the lead from a more positive overnight session in Asia, shares were marked higher in opening exchanges in something of a relief rally.
"Even though there is insufficient information on the latest variant fully to assess the impact, there is an increasing feeling that any fallout would be less severe than that seen in the initial pandemic. In any event, and as seen in previous waves, companies are better prepared to deal with any future restrictions having experienced them before. Less positively, of course, there are already immediate impacts such as the restriction on overseas travel, which has stopped the tentative recovery of sectors such as the airlines in their tracks."
Investors were mulling over the latest data from Nationwide, which showed that UK house price growth edged back into double digits in November.
Annual house price growth ticked up to 10% from 9.9% in October, with the average price of a house now at £252,687, almost 15% higher than in March last year when the pandemic struck.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "There have been some signs of cooling in housing market activity in recent months. For example, the number of housing transactions were down almost 30% year-on-year in October. But this was almost inevitable, given the expiry of the Stamp Duty holiday at the end of September, which gave buyers a strong incentive to bring forward their purchase to avoid additional tax.
"Indeed, activity has been extremely buoyant in 2021. The number of housing transactions so far this year has already exceeded the number recorded in 2020 with two months still to go and is actually tracking close to the number seen at the same stage in 2007, before the global financial crisis struck."
In equity markets, oil giants BP and Shell were among the top risers as oil prices rallied.
Drax racked up strong gains after the biomass energy provider said it expects annual core earnings to be at the top end of current forecasts driven by increased power generation.
Vehicle rental company Redde Northgate surged as it reported a jump in interim profit and revenue, hailing a strong performance across the group.
FTSE 100 - Risers
BP (BP.) 334.40p 2.75%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) 6,674.00p 2.65%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,617.40p 2.54%
Anglo American (AAL) 2,840.00p 2.45%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 4,721.00p 2.36%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 1,614.20p 2.36%
Compass Group (CPG) 1,494.00p 2.15%
Evraz (EVR) 588.20p 2.12%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 130.14p 2.10%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,754.50p 2.04%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RKT) 6,075.00p -0.57%
National Grid (NG.) 1,001.60p -0.50%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 1,079.50p -0.46%
SEGRO (SGRO) 1,403.00p -0.43%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,875.00p -0.38%
Avast (AVST) 604.00p -0.30%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 2,084.00p -0.29%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,368.50p -0.26%
Unilever (ULVR) 3,852.00p -0.18%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,336.00p -0.07%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Redde Northgate (REDD) 430.50p 8.99%
Contour Global (GLO) 190.80p 4.61%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 48.84p 3.91%
Drax Group (DRX) 569.50p 3.55%
Carnival (CCL) 1,223.40p 3.14%
Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 173.80p 3.05%
Molten Ventures (GROW) 951.00p 2.81%
Ninety One (N91) 258.00p 2.63%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 296.00p 2.56%
BlackRock Smaller Companies Trust (BRSC) 1,998.00p 2.36%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Shaftesbury (SHB) 605.50p -1.54%
Future (FUTR) 3,538.00p -1.28%
Pennon Group (PNN) 1,211.00p -1.14%
Airtel Africa (AAF) 123.80p -0.80%
Countryside Properties (CSP) 409.80p -0.77%
Sirius Real Estate Ltd. (SRE) 135.40p -0.73%
Indivior (INDV) 228.40p -0.61%
Biffa (BIFF) 349.50p -0.57%
Helios Towers (HTWS) 163.40p -0.49%
Bytes Technology Group (BYIT) 552.00p -0.45%