StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 held on to steady gains approaching midday with the index up 0.2% to 7,039.30. The picture in Europe was less positive with early gains erased.

While sentiment appeared to have picked up in the US overnight, weak Eurozone growth figures are not helping inspire confidence.

The stock market fall-out from yesterday's Budget is relatively limited, though gambling and housebuilding stocks trade higher amid relief that a new levy on online betting is not worse than expected and on an extension to the Help to Buy scheme respectively.

Index heavyweight BP gained 3.3% to 552.7p after the oil giant more than doubled its third quarter profit on the back of higher output and prices.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Restaurant Group fell 12.9% to 258.8p, as investors reacted skeptically to its decision to acquire Wagamama owner Mabel Topico for £357m and issue new shares to help fund the deal.

Book and convenience chain WH Smith climbed 5.7% to £18.32 on news that it had agreed to acquire airport retailer InMotion for $198m (£155m), offering it a foothold in the US market.

Consumer goods supplier Reckitt Benckiser reversed 4.6% to £63.06 after it said its third-quarter sales slipped 2% due to mechanical disruptions at a European infant formula plant.

AstraZeneca gained 0.8% to £59.11 on the back of news that it had agreed to sell the rights to a stomach acid treatment and an anti-inflammatory for a combined $815m.

Online grocery retailer Ocado gained 3.1% to 825.2p, as it revealed more details of its partnership agreement in the US with Kroger. Ocado said Kroger expected to order 20 customer fulfilment centres over three years, with the first three ordered by the end of 2018.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

At the small cap end of the market, Rainbow Rare Earths slumped 40% to 5.79p after it recorded flat sales in the first quarter and warned it wouldn't hit its monthly production targets until next year.


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