StockMarketWire.com - UK stock markets made sharp gains in the afternoon session on Tuesday following a strong start to the trading day on Wall Street and calming comments on the coronavirus outbreak eased investor worries.

Leading US indexes all began firmly on the front foot, which the biggest gains made by the tech heavy Nasdaq, jumping more than 1% to 9,238.39.

Earlier in the day the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a measured assessment of the coronavirus outbreak in China and its potential impact. The WHO called the outbreak 'an emergency in China' but resisted any temptation to declare it an epidemic of international concern.

That seems to have eased some of the concerns held by investors about the potential impact that the virus could exert on China and the rest of the global economy.

In the UK, the benchmark FTSE 100 index accelerated earlier modest gains into a firm rally, rising close on 0.9% by the close to 7,483.45.

Global hotels group InterContinental Hotels led the after FTSE 100 leader board, rallying 3.5% at £47.295, but spirits and Guinness firm Diageo, also heavily exposed to Asian markets, failed to shrug off its own concerns, sliding 1.4% to £31.49.

The mid cap FTSE 250 made also stellar gains, up 0.7% at 21,450.33.

WOODFORD FUND STARTS PAYOUT

There are around 300,000 investors still stuck in Neil Woodford's former flagship Equity Income fund but they have been told today how much money they can expect in their first payout since the fund was suspended last June.

Link Fund Solutions, which took over the fund, has written to investors this morning detailing payments of between 46p and 59p per share, depending on what kind of shares they hold.

Investors should get the cash in their bank accounts on Thursday, although those that used investment platforms will have to wait a little longer for the payment to be processed.

One of the bigger market movers today was Irn-bru maker AG Barr after it guided for full year profit towards the top end of market forecasts. This is being taken as a sign of progress on efforts to turnaround its business following a challenging summer.

AG Barr shares jumped more than 15% to 628p.

Food delivery company, and takeover target, Just Eat rebounded from earlier losses to add 2% to 882.6p as investors digested news that earnings would come in at the top end of its expectations. The company, which is facing a CMA investigation of its merger with Dutch peer Takeaway.com, also confirmed a delivery partnership with fast food chain McDonald's.

Over-50s focused services group Saga saw its share price rally more than 7% to 44.78p after guiding for an annual underlying profit performance in line with previous expectations despite 'a challenging external environment' in the insurance and travel markets.

Water utility Severn Trent stayed largely flat at £25.83 after it said it expected to raise its annual dividend at least in line with the UK inflation rate, estimated this year at around 1.5%.

House builder Crest Nicholson leapt nearly 7% to 471.2p despite reporting a fall in profit.

Crest Nicholson said it had sold fewer homes at lower prices amid a shift in focus to more affordable housing.

VIRGIN MONEY MARGINS STEADY

Virgin Money UK gained close on 5% to 173.1p despite its mortgage book shrinking in the first quarter, though its interest margins stabilised and deposit and business lending volumes grew.

Confirmation that electronics components and LEDs firm Luceco has traded ahead of expectations during 2019 has got investors chasing the shares nearly 8% higher at 151p. Margin improvement, among others factors, mean the company anticipates beating adjusted operating profit estimates for 2019 and 2020.

Estate agent LSL Property Services rallied 10% to 319p after saying business had been firmer than the company's own expectations. Overall revenue dropped 4%, but this looks largely due to the closure of underperforming branches, which may be a plus for longer-run profits.

Cyber security firm Avast, which owns the popular AVG brand, saw its share price plunge 8.5% to 484.2p after analysts at Peel Hunt started coverage of the stock with a Sell recommendation. They are worried about emerging competition.

Imperial Leather soap maker PZ Cussons reversed earlier losses to add 0.5% to 195.6p despite reporting a fall in underlying first half profit. This was blamed on tough trading conditions in Nigeria and weakness in Australia and the UK.

Retirement home developer and manager McCarthy & Stone added 1% to 155.4p, even as it booked a 25% fall in annual profit, citing a challenging market backdrop and strategic structural changes.

Mortgage advisory group Mortgage Advice Bureau lost some of its earlier strength but still rallied more than 9% at 760p as its annual revenue rose 16%, though it also said that political uncertainty related to Brexit had lowered per-adviser sales rates.

Convenience foods group Greencore weakened by 1% to 245.7p as its revenue rose a modest 1.8% in the first quarter.

Digital marketing and communications group Next 15 shed 2% to 510p, on warning that it would report a full-year adjusted profit marginally below its previous expectations.


At market close:

[LON:BAG] Barr A G PLC share price was +83p at 627p

[LON:CRST] Crest Nicholson Holdings Plc share price was +32.4p at 472.6p

[LON:DGE] Diageo PLC share price was -46p at 3146.5p

[LON:IHG] InterContinental Hotels Group PLC share price was +139.5p at 4709.5p

[LON:LUCE] Luceco Plc share price was +14p at 154p



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