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15 Feb 2021 | 10:58

London midday: Stocks, sterling gain amid vaccine hopes

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were firmly in the black by midday on Monday, while sterling pushed past the $1.39 level for the first time in nearly three years amid optimism over the vaccine rollout. The FTSE 100 was up 1.6% at 6,694.78 and the pound was 0.4% higher against the dollar at 1.3908.

A solid session in Asia was also underpinning the mood, after Japan's Nikkei 225 surged past the 30,000 level for the first time in more than 30 years.

IG market analyst Joshua Mahony said: "European markets are following their Asian counterparts higher as markets look to kick-start a new week in style. Closures in both Chinese and US markets should depress volumes, yet we are seeing precious few signs that sentiment has been dampened today.

"From a UK perspective, the 15 million vaccination threshold has lifted spirits over the government's ability to drag us out of lockdown as early as possible. We have already seen the so-called 'Covid recovery group' push Johnson to commit on an April removal of all restrictions, and while that may somewhat optimistic, it is no doubt a reminder of the possible economic surge that could be around the corner.

"Both scientists and politicians alike has expressed optimism that this could be the final lockdown, with value stocks understandably gaining traction at the prospect of an economic reopening in the coming months. Thus it comes as no surprise to see the FTSE gains headed up by stocks in heavily-hit sectors such as travel, pubs, banks, restaurants groups, and hotels."

British Airways owner IAG, Premier Inn owner Whitbread, caterer Compass Group, TUI, easyJet, Cineworld, National Express, FirstGroup and WH Smith were all trading up amid hopes the vaccine rollout will bring a return to more normal life by spring.

Mitchells & Butlers was also in focus after saying it plans to raise £350m through an open offer and had also reached agreement with its banks for a new £150m three-year year unsecured revolving credit facility to bolster its balance sheet.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce gained after saying it has hired former Deloitte partner Panos Kakoullis as chief financial officer to help steer the company through the crisis in the aviation industry.

Banks were on the front foot, with Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds all firmer. Barclays and NatWest are slated to report earnings later in the week.

Oil giants BP and Shell gushed higher as oil prices hit 13-month highs, while Auto Trader was lifted by an upgrade to 'buy' at Peel Hunt.

On the downside, dollar-earners were under pressure as sterling gained, with GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Experian and Ferguson all weaker.

Moneysupermarket was knocked lower by a downgrade to 'hold' at Liberum.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,694.78 1.59% FTSE 250 (MCX) 21,326.35 1.37% techMARK (TASX) 4,153.17 0.19%

FTSE 100 - Risers

International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 156.70p 4.85% Barclays (BARC) 152.88p 4.78% JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 841.40p 4.63% Compass Group (CPG) 1,474.00p 4.58% Whitbread (WTB) 3,346.00p 4.33% Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 38.69p 4.29% Anglo American (AAL) 2,772.50p 4.11% Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,312.00p 3.82% B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 578.40p 3.66% Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 1,347.40p 3.60%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,377.00p -1.26% Experian (EXPN) 2,612.00p -0.99% Relx plc (REL) 1,854.50p -0.64% Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,364.00p -0.46% GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,272.20p -0.45% Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 2,355.00p -0.21% Ferguson (FERG) 8,910.00p -0.11% SEGRO (SGRO) 967.60p -0.04% Rentokil Initial (RTO) 525.00p -0.04% Croda International (CRDA) 6,598.00p -0.03%

FTSE 250 - Risers

WH Smith (SMWH) 1,676.00p 8.27% Cineworld Group (CINE) 80.86p 8.10% TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 342.40p 8.01% Hammerson (HMSO) 22.86p 7.78% Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 354.00p 7.76% National Express Group (NEX) 306.20p 7.06% FirstGroup (FGP) 83.00p 6.48% easyJet (EZJ) 814.00p 6.35% Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 137.85p 5.75% Virgin Money UK (VMUK) 169.45p 5.54%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Micro Focus International (MCRO) 449.40p -3.67% Group (MONY) 261.60p -2.02% Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 2,094.00p -1.97% Spirent Communications (SPT) 250.50p -1.18% Oxford Biomedica (OXB) 1,030.00p -0.96% Genus (GNS) 5,380.00p -0.92% Cranswick (CWK) 3,524.00p -0.90% Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund Limited (SEQI) 108.20p -0.73% Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 3,746.00p -0.58% Games Workshop Group (GAW) 10,350.00p -0.58%
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