- After drifting to a seven-week low at the end of last as fears of a coronavirus pandemic gripped investors, stocks started February on the front foot with the benchmark FTSE 100 index gaining 49 points or 0.7% to 7,335 as of 4.30pm.

Stocks took their cue from European markets and from the US where the January Purchasing Managers' Index beat expectations by a wide margin suggesting that the manufacturing sector had returned to growth.

Budget carrier Ryanair climbed 5.7% to €15.75 as it swung to profit in the third quarter of its financial year, having flown more passengers and charged hire fares.

Rival airline Easyjet was the top FTSE 100 gainer adding 3.5% to £14.42 while shares in travel group TUI tacked on 2.5% to 798p.

Media company Future bounced 4.5% to £13.37 after it guided for full-year results 'materially ahead' of current market expectations, despite some uncertainty in the macro-economic environment.

Future shares were hammered 16% on Friday after hedge fund ShadowFall published a Sell note on the company.

Hostel owner Safestay rose 2.7% to 38p as it boosted its annual operating earnings by 11%, owing to higher bed rates and occupancy levels.

Weighing on the index was tobacco giant Imperial Brands which dipped 0.4% to £19.42 on news that it had poached Stefan Bomhard, the head of auto retailer Inchcape, to be its new chief executive.

Shares in Inchcape reversed 0.7% to 652p as the firm began the search for Bomhard's replacement.

Investment manager River and Mercantile shed 2.4% to 266p, even as its first-half assets under management rose 6.2%, as growth slowed to just 1.4% in the second quarter of its financial year through June.

Fire safety product distributor FireAngel fell 4.6% to 14.5p, having announced that it expected to suffer a further exceptional charge from increased product replacement costs.

Medical imaging technology company Polarean Imaging was also hurt by changes at the top, falling 5.9% to 29.2p amid the departure of chairman Richard Morgan and non-executive director Robert Bertoldi.

Morgan had been replaced as chairman by current director Jonathan Allis, the founder and chief executive of Blue Earth Diagnostics, which was recently acquired by Bracco Imaging for $450m.

Respiratory diseases focused Verona Pharma dropped 9.4% to 47.5p on announcing the departures of chief executive Jan-Anders Karlsson and chief financial officer Piers Morgan.

They had been replaced by David Zaccardelli and Mark W. Hahn, respectively, both of who had joined from Dova Pharmaceuticals, which had recently been acquired by Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

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