StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks rallied from Thursday's eight-month low heading into the weekend despite US employment data which missed estimates, fuelling concerns about the health of the world's biggest economy.

At 4.30pm the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 61 points or 0.9% at 7,138.

BP shares gained 1.8% to 494p after the oil giant announced that veteran chief executive Bob Dudley would stand down next year and be replaced by Bernard Looney, the current head of its oil and gas division.

AstraZeneca rose 0.6% to £69.81 as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the self-administration of the company's respiratory medication Fasnera in a pre-filled pen.

Defence contractor Meggitt added 1.4% to 619p on news that it secured a $48m contract for the supply of aerial weapons scoring systems to the US Army.

Among the losers were insurers AA, Direct Line, Hastings and Saga after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released its interim report on pricing in the £24bn a year retail insurance market.

Concerned about renewal pricing for 'vulnerable' customers, the FCA is considering a range of measures to lower renewal prices and force firms to offer cheaper products with the same cover where available.

MID- AND SMALL-CAP MOVERS

Top riser in the mid-cap FTSE 250 index was Drax Group, up 14% to 286p after the European Union agreed a £1bn support package in the case of power outages.

Office investor Workspace dipped 0.5% to 932p despite exchanging contracts for the disposal of a property in central London for £14.8m, well above its book value.

Flavour and ingredients supplier Treatt rose 0.5% to 412p after guiding for a 1% rise in annual revenue, with growth limited by a steep fall in citrus raw-material prices.

Financial services group WH Ireland fell 3.8% to 48.1p on news that chairman Tim Steel would retire at the end of the year, having overseen a management overhaul that included changes of chief executive and chief financial officer.

Top small-cap riser was Cannabidiol (CBD) supplier Zoetic International which puffed 12% higher to 4.1p after it announced that first-half revenue had more than doubled as more stores in the US stocked its CBD-infused smoking products.

US EMPLOYMENT DATA

After a series of disappointing US macro-economic data including both Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Indices (PMIs) this week, investors were hoping that the much-watched Non-Farm Payroll data wouldn't send the market into another spasm.

The data, which measures the change in private-sector payrolls excluding the agricultural sector, showed a smaller than expected increase of 136,000 jobs last month against a forecast of 145,000 jobs.

However a fall in the overall jobless rate eased investor fears and helped calm markets after a string of poor economic data.


Story provided by StockMarketWire.com