StockMarketWire.com - UK markets remain firmly on the front foot in early afternoon trading on Friday, following two days of losses, after hefty gains on Wall Street overnight and as China reported its first rise in factory output so far in 2020.

That has boosted mining shares, so significant to the health of the FTSE 100, although oil stocks lost steam. Mining groups Anglo American, BHP and Rio Tinto were featured among the blue-chips biggest gainers, up between 3.5% and 5%.

That saw the UK benchmark FTSE 100 gain 0.5% at midday to 5,769.83, while the midcap FTSE 250 index was also strongly higher, up 0.8% to 15,534.04.

In overnight trading, shares in Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.6% higher and the Korean market was 0.8%up, while China's SSE Composite stayed flat.

Brent oil prices lost earlier strength but remained more than 1% higher at $31.48 per barrel, while gold nudged up to $1,716.4 an ounce. The pound lost ground against the US dollar at $1.2194, and was also weak versus the euro and yen.

ROYAL MAIL CHIEF EXEC WALKS

Royal Mail shares soared nearly 8% to 175.05p after announcing that chief executive Rico Back had stood down with immediate effect, having only taken up the role in June 2018.

Royal Mail said revenue in its UK parcels and letters division had fallen £22m in April, while costs in the division had risen £40m.

Bookmaker William Hill rallied close on 6% to 113p after it secured waivers on its loan conditions, as its revenue sank 27% in the 17 weeks to 28 April thanks to a dearth of live sporting events.

Also strong was IT services firm Computacenter after it said that its sales volumes would be 'considerably ahead' in the first half of 2020. That saw the share price jump more than 10% to £14.76.

Bus and train company National Express rallied 7% to 195.2p as cost cuts helped it generate positive earnings in the month of April slightly ahead of its expectations, even as its revenue slumped 50%.

JUST EAT DELIVERS BOSS

Price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com stayed largely flat at 314.8p on news that it had poached Just Eat Takeaway head Peter Duffy to be its new chief executive.

Oil services company Petrofac fell 3% to 156.7p as it announced further cost cuts, on top of suspending its dividend, to weather a slump in construction activity and tender delays.

Popular retail investment trust Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust firmed 2.4% to 691.5p after it lifted its annual dividend 5%, having posted a positive annual performance that beat its benchmark.

Aviation services provider Signature Aviation rose modestly to 186.6p on the back of an uptick in flying activity in the first half of May, though business was still down substantially due to travel restrictions.

Wind farm investor The Renewables Infrastructure Group remained flat at 127.6p, having pulled out of the Erstrask onshore wind farm development in Sweden following delays in its construction.

SMALLER CAP WRAP

Electronics group DiscoverIE jumped 9% to 470p after saying that its annual earnings were expected to be 'slightly ahead' of its expectations amid a stronger-than-expected showing in China.

Publisher and food court group Time Out rose 2.5% to 41p after it extended an existing £20m loan from Oakley Capital Investments, to provide liquidity during the Covid-19 crisis.

Video game developer Sumo gained 1% to 185.5p on news that it had acquired services group Lab42 for $0.6m.

Lab42 was a cross-platform work for hire studio, providing co-development and full game development services.


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