StockMarketWire.com - UK markets staged a late morning rally to erase earlier declines as investors turned their attention on upcoming fourth-quarter GDP data from across the Eurozone.

This was despite Royal Bank of Scotland warning of downward pressure on its income and another jump in coronavirus cases. But the latter was offset largely in the wake of World Health Organization (WHO) assurances that the trajectory of the outbreak had not changed.

At 12pm, the benchmark FTSE 100 index had rallied back into the black, up 0.24% to 7,469.55, while the rise was matched percentage point for percentage point by the mid caps. The FTSE 250 index had risen by the same margin to 21,725.93.

NEW NAME, SAME CHALLENGES

Royal Bank of Scotland headed the FTSE 100 loser board on Friday, slumping more than 7% to 211.9p despite almost doubling annual profit and declaring a special dividend.

But the bank, which said it would change its name to NatWest and has just welcomed new chief executive Alison Rose, also warned a challenging market environment would weigh on income generation and said it would incur additional costs downsizing its investment bank.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca recovered much of its earlier losses despite posting a 22% fall in annual profit as rising revenue was offset by an increase in selling and other administrative costs.

But the pharma giant saw its shares remain in the red, albeit modestly, down 14p at £76.12.

Heading the blue-chip leader board was aero-engineer Rolls-Royce, up 2.5% at 684.4p, narrowly from Pearson's 2.3% rise to 569.2p.

Warehouse property investor Segro inched a penny higher to 922.4p despite booking an 18% fall in annual profit.

Segro's underlying performance, however, improved on the back of higher rental income and it hiked its dividend 10%.

Water utility Pennon advanced 0.4% to £11.445 as it accepted a UK regulatory ruling for its South West Water unit that included a total expenses allowance of around £2bn.

Pennon also noted that its current dividend policy expired in 2020 and said it planned announce a new policy by its full-year results announcement, scheduled for 4 June.

PROFITS UNRAVEL

Industrial fastenings manufacturer Trifast dropped more than 5% to 164p after it warned its annual underlying profit would be at the lower end of analysts' forecasts.

Trifast also said that it was continuing to monitor the coronavirus impact on its business.

The ongoing disease outbreak was having a more favourable impact on Aviation services provider Air Partner.

Its shares jumped 5% to 74.2p after it confirmed that it had assisted with the evacuation of more than 300 British and EU nationals from Wuhan.

Molecular diagnostics group Yourgene Health nudged 1% higher to 14.93p after it chemotoxicity diagnostics assay was approved for sale in Australia.

Construction materials provider Brickability stayed flat at 74p, having acquired roofing products importer McCann Roofing Products for £2.8m.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com