StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks traded higher at midday on Wednesday as investors continued to weigh the risk of a further surge of Covid-19 cases against more planned easing of lock-downs in disease hotspots.

At 12:30, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 0.6%, at 5,886.73.

Banking group Virgin Money gained 9% to 77.6p, having posted only a small first-half loss, after impairment charges pushed up by the Covid-19 crisis were offset by a 3% rise in operating income.

Television broadcaster ITV rose 4.9% to 75.7p despite reporting a 42% slump in April revenue owing to weakness in advertising markets.

Specialist lender OneSavings Bank gained 4.7% to 254.2p as its lending volumes and three-month-plus arrears remained broadly flat in the first quarter.

OneSavings Bank said it had granted repayment holidays equivalent to more than a quarter the value of its mortgage book as customers struggle through the Covid-19 crisis.

Medical technology business Smith & Nephew added 3.2% to £16.4 even as its revenue also slumped in April, by 47%, owing to a suspension of elective medical procedures in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Smith & Nephew said the hit was somewhat offset by improved trading in China.

Bus and train group National Express reversed 2.9% to 231p as it launched a share issue to cut debt and strengthen its balance sheet to weather the Covid-19 storm.

National Express did not state how much it intended to raise, only saying that it would account for up to 19.99% of the company's issued share capital. The issue price would be determined via a bookbuild process.

Online grocer Ocado firmed 2.3% to £17.2 as sales at its retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer jumped 40% so far in the second quarter, thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns sparking a surge in demand for home deliveries.

Ocado also said it had delivered its first international customer fulfilment centres, to partners Groupe Casino in France and Sobeys in Canada.

Greeting card and gift retailer Card Factory nudged up 1% to 38.7p even as it pulled its dividend, having closed stores and furloughed most workers due to UK government lockdowns.

Card Factory said it had also seen significant growth in online sales.

Sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion edged up 0.5% to 507.6p after the UK competition regulator blocked its planned £90m takeover of Footasylum.

Conveyancing platform provider ULS Technology was unchanged at 41p as it guided for an 11% fall in profit for the financial year just gone buy, citing Brexit uncertainty and the early stages of the disease pandemic.


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