- UK stocks put in a strong showing at the end of the trading week, buoyed by better-than-expected Chinese economic data and expectations that the Chinese government will keep pumping money into stimulus programmes which could prop up demand for commodities.

At 11.45, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 70.4 points, or 0.93%, at 7,680.2.

Chinese gross domestic product slowed to 6.1% in 2019, in line with government targets, with growth stabilising at 6.0% in the fourth quarter despite trade ructions with the US.


On the local corporate front, British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines ascended 6.3% to 678.6p after it removed a limit on the number of its shares that could be owned by non-Europeans investors.

Mining company Rio Tinto firmed 2.8% to £46.55, despite reporting a 3% fall in annual iron ore production from key operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia state, owing to weather and operational challenges.

The company also posted lower copper and aluminium output, but a rise in bauxite and titanium production.

Insurance provider Hastings slumped 6.6% to 173p as it warned on profit and said it would cut its dividend after being hit by elevated claims costs.

Hastings said it expected its dividend for the year through December to be lower, without being specific, but above its 65-75% target payout range.

Gulf region focused hospital operator NMC Health rallied 6% to £15.28, on announcing that it had hired a former US federal judge and FBI director to address allegations about the health of its balance sheet lobbed by short-seller Muddy Waters.

NMC Health said its independent review committee had retained Louis Freeh and his firm Freeh Group International Solutions to examine the claims and compile a report.

Instrumentation and controls company Spectris sparked up 1.3% to £28.38 after it and partner Macquarie Corporate agreed to sell their EMS Bruel & Kjaer joint venture to Sydney-listed environmental management group Envirosuite.

Spectris said it would itself receive A$35m (£18.5m), less repayment of EMS B&K's debt facility on completion, and 10m shares in Envirosuite.

Betting company GVC shed 7.4p to trade at 926.4p, even as it said it expected profit to be within the top end of recently upgraded forecasts, despite weaker sales in its UK retail business amid increased regulatory action.

Information services company Experian edged 0.1% higher to £26.46 as its revenue rose 9% in its fiscal third quarter, led by 'strong' growth in North America amid a boost from acquisitions.

Pork and poultry supplier Cranswick crackled 6.7% higher to £36.24, having upgraded its profit guidance on the back of 'exceptionally strong' exports and a 'robust' performance over the Christmas period.


Fitness club operator The Gym Group softened 1p to 309p despite reporting that annual revenue rose by nearly quarter following a jump in membership numbers.

Premier Foods fattened up 2.3% to 44p as its sales rose 2.6% in its fiscal third quarter, underpinned by healthy demand for its Mr. Kipling cakes.

Sausage casings manufacturer Devro was marked down 1.2p to 173.2p as it downgraded its profit outlook on disappointing second-half sales.

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