- UK stocks opened substantially higher on Wednesday after US lawmakers reached agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus package to buffer the world's biggest economy from the still-spreading coronavirus.

Final votes on the package were expected to take place in Washington later on Wednesday.

At 1200, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 1.2%, at 5,509.15

Retirement home builder McCarthy & Stone rallied 9% to 52.6p after it claimed cash reduction measures, including pausing new builds, would ensure its business could operate without revenue for about 2.5 years.

Home builder Persimmon jumped 5.4% to £17.8, despite scrapping one planned dividend payment and postponing another as it braces for a fall in home completions due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Water supplier United Utilities rose 3.7% to 828p as it guided for higher underlying annual earnings, even as winter storms and an uncertain economic climate weighed on its performance.

With regards to Covid-19, United Utilities said it could make affordability schemes available to customers struggling to pay their bills, but noted its revenue was fixed due to regulations, with any shortfalls recoverable.

Aerospace and defence contractor Meggitt climbed 3.7% to 290.4p as it announced that outgoing chairman Nigel Rudd would stay on until further notice in the interest of continuity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Convenience store operator in travel locations SSP jumped 2.3% to 241p, despite it ruling out an interim dividend this year.

SSP also said would issue new shares to bolster its capital position to weather the Covid-19 storm. The size and pricing of the capital raising would be determined through a book build process.

Student accommodation developer Unite firmed 1.7% to 797p, even as it scrapped its final dividend and suspended its rental income guidance.

Unite said it would offer to forgo rent for students who choose to return home for the remainder of the 2019/20 academic year.

Support services group DCC dipped 3% to £47.4 on news that it had acquired US-based nutritional products group Amerilab Technologies for about $85m.

Technical products and services group Diploma shed 8.3% to £13.1, on guiding for a 'slightly' weaker-than-expected performance for the first half of the year.

Waste management company Biffa dropped 14% to 196p after it pulled its dividend and warned that the coronavirus pandemic would have a 'material impact' on its performance.

Pest control company Rentokil slumped 18.6% to 302p after it suspended dividend payments and withdrew its previous guidance for 2020.

The suspension of dividend payments included withdrawing Rentokil Initial's final dividend proposed in February.

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