StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices raced ahead to midday as the market welcomed better-than-expected export trade data out of China, along with a platter of deal activity. Banks, utilities, retailers and several miners were prominent risers. Key European bourses were up more than 2%.

To noon, FTSE 100 was up 110.32 points, or 1.82%, to 6184.84. FTSE 250 was up 212.44, or 1.26%, to 17,055.0. At 11.46am, gold was at $1119/oz. Three-month industrial metals were mostly lower. Spot copper rose 3.45% to $239.25/lb. WTI crude fell 1.93% and Brent rose 2.1%.

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) led blue chips and financials up with a rise of 3.72% to 1129.5p. Asia-facing banks Standard Chartered (STAN), up 3.37% to 724.15p, and HSBC (HSBA), up 3.23% to 509.95p, were not far behind. Also up were Schroders (SDR), Barclays (BARC) and Aviva (AV.).

United Utilities (UU.), up 3.37% to 880.75p, gained amid reports it could attract takeover interest due to its current valuation. Sector pals were up, but not as markedly. Miners followed Anglo American (AAL), which rose 3% to 698.05p, while oil majors traced BP (BP.), which gained 2.62% to 344.8p.

Retailers managed gains. Morrisons (MRW) rose 2.65% to 172.25p, while Tesco (TSCO) added 2.31% to 190.25p. Hikma (HIK), up 1.04% to 2386.5p, is to acquire 98.09% of the share capital of EIMC United Pharmaceuticals. Whitbread was the sole blue-chip faller, off 3.16% to 4563p, despite impoved H1 sales in total and like-for-like terms.

BIGGER MOVERS

Amlin (AML) surged 32.54% to 652.75p after MS&AD Insurance Group said it was in talks to buy the group in a £3.5bn deal. SQS (SQS), down 15.79% to 480p issued an H2 profits warning, due to a slump in gross margins, despite otherwise robust interim figures.

Conviviality Retail (CVR) surged 20.65% to 187p as trading was restored following M&A-related AIM suspension. Conviviality has agreed to acquire drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark for £200m, a reverse takeover funded with the help of a £130m placing.

Starcom (STAR) jumped 13.33% to 4.25p as it confirmed a new contact with a major international organisation for its Helios Hybrid tracking system, following an international tender. Meantime, Hochschild Mining (HOC), up 4.57% to 71.63p, has announced a significant new discovery at Pallancata and achieves commercial production at Inmaculada.

Oxford Instruments (OXIG) fell 15.63% to 675p as it confirmed a slow start to the current year, with orders and sales down on the year on a constant-currency organic basis. However, orders for June and July were significantly ahead of April and May.

ECONOMIC NEWS

UK retail spending rose just 0.1% in August, on the year, data from British Retail Consortium showed. In adjusted terms, sales were up 1.4%.

Germany's trade surplus, seasonally adjusted, rose to 22.8bn euros in July, from a revised 22.1bn euros in June, official data showed. The market expected a surplus of 21.8bn euros.

France's government budget balance for July was 79.8bn euros, from a deficit of 58.5bn euros in June. Its trade deficit for July was 2.7bn euros, from a deficit of 2.7bn euros and against an expected -3.2bn euros.

China’s August exports declined 5.5% in August from a year earlier after a 8.3% drop in July, according to the General Administration of Customs, but that was a fair bit better than the 6.6% decline expected by analysts.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Cambria Automobiles (CAMB), up 6.52% to 73.5p, as it flagged strong H2 growth and said FY results would beat already-upgraded expectations. Verona Pharma (VRP) fell 5.05% to 4.7p after H1 pretax losses widened 238% to £4.4mdue to higher R&D costs.

Falkland Islands Holdings (FKL), down 4.81% to 217.5p, said it expected a satisfactory FY trading performance. Ashmore Group (ASHM), up 4.33% to 255.4p, said assets under management fell to $58.9bn in the year to end-June, down from $75.0bn.

Fenner (FENR), up 3.95% to 171p, expects group revenue and underlying profit for the year ended Aug. 31 to be in line with forecasts at the time of the trading update on July 22. In other news, Somero (SOM), up 1.81% to 141p, saw a 20% rise in H1 revenue to $35m. Pretax profit rose 28% to $8.2m on strong activity levels in North America and the Middle East.

Redrow (RDW)m up 2.74% to 495.2p, booked a 33% rise in FY revenue to £1.15bn, while operating profit rose 54% to £213m. Berkeley (BKG), up 2.14% to 3452.5p, was on track to deliver an earnings target of £2bn over the next three years.

Hilton Food Group (HFG), up 1.79% to 427.5p, has reported strong underlying progress in the 28 weeks to July 12 with operating profits up 1.3% at £13.7m and volumes up 5% at 127,913 tonnes. Turnover fell 2.2% to £579.2m, but after-tax profits rose 0.9% to £10.3m.

Betfair (BET) nudged up 0.46% to 3150.5p after it and rival Paddy Power (PAP), up 0.77% to 99.76p, finally agreed a previously mooted £5bn merger.

Other stocks in the news included DS Smith (SMDS), Galileo Resources (GLR), Edenville Energy (EDL), Greene King Retail (GNK), Marimedia (MARI), Falcon Oil & Gas (FALC), KazMunaiGas Exploration Production (KMG) and Vernalis (VER).



Story provided by StockMarketWire.com