- A softening pound on weak figures from the UK services sector and strength in the banking sector helped fire the FTSE 100 to strong gains.

By midday the index was up 0.8% to 7,412.28. This outpaced more modest gains for other European markets.

US futures pointed to gains on Wall Street later ahead of the release of US non-farm payrolls, one of the most closely watched pieces of global macro-economic data.


HSBC gained 3% after a strong performance at its Asian division and tighter cost control helped it post a 31% rise in annual pre-tax profit.

InterContinental Hotels dropped 1% after it posted only a slight uptick in first-quarter revenue-per-room growth, amid weakness in the Middle East and South Korea.

Shopping centre operator Intu Properties sank 7% as it warned on profits, blaming a higher-than-expected level of insolvencies and a slowdown in new lettings amid Brexit uncertainty.

Packaging company Smurfit Kappa ticked 1% higher as its earnings grew 25% in the first quarter, underpinned by both higher demand and pricing.

AstraZeneca rose 1.3% after its oral treatment for type-2 diabetes received US regulator approval.

Subprime lender Provident Financial, which is trying to ward off a hostile takeover bid from Non-Standard Financial, said it had grown its customer numbers in the first quarter. Its shares rose 1.2%.

Defence firm Ultra Electronics rose 5.1% as it continued to see 'positive developments' in its order book so far this year, and continued to trade in line with its expectations.


Financial services group Numis was flat, recovering from earlier losses, on posting a 64% slump in first-half profit, pinned on market volatility.

S4 Capital firmed 6.9% on the back of a 37% rise in first-quarter profit, as the advertising company led by former WPP boss Martin Sorrell continued to add clients.

Australian online retailer MySale dipped 2.7% after it agreed to sell UK-focused website to Brandalley UK for £1.5m.

Mining junior Rambler Metals and Mining jumped 15% on announcing that it produced 6% more gold and copper in 2018, owing to record output at its Ming mine in Canada.

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