StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks raced ahead on Wednesday, supported by strong European markets and the latest Purchasing Managers (PMI) survey for the UK service sector which showed the slowdown in the economy moderated in May after April's dramatic collapse.

At 4.35pm the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 2.6% at 6,382 led by travel and leisure stocks including Easyjet up 8.3% to 784, International Consolidated Airlines up 11.4% to 272p and Whitbread up 7.2% to £26.51.

Hungarian-based carrier Wizz Air gained 6.8% to £36.56 having more than doubled its annual profit as it carried more passengers on a fast-expanding route network throughout Europe.

Wizz Air has since had to ground most of its fleet but insisted it had the balance sheet wherewithal to ride out the Covid-19 crisis.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair ascended 5.9% to €12.14, even as it reported a 99.5% plunge in passenger numbers in the month of May.

Defence company Chemring jumped 26% to 269p as its first-half profit surged, underpinned by a strong performance in its sensors & information segment. Chemring hiked its dividend 8%.

Travel location convenience store group SSP reversed earlier losses to gain 3.3% to 315p after it swung to a full-year loss and launched a fund raising of up to £26.8m, which it said would allow shareholders to reinvest their final dividend back into the company.

Masonry products maker Forterra gained 6.2% to 221p after it said it was taking steps to restructure the business, which, in its case, could lead a plant closure and the loss of 225 jobs.

Concrete products maker Ibstock added 0.7% to 202p on announcing that it was also reviewing steps to scale back operations in an effort to slash costs that could lead to a 15% cut in its workforce.

Music royalty investment firm Hipgnosis (SONG) rose 6.6% to a new all-time high of 113.5p after reporting a 17.7% increase in total net asset value (NAV) return for the year to 31 March.

Excluding dividends, the operative NAV was up 13.3% reflecting strong gains in the value of its music catalogue, helped in part by an increase in music streaming during lockdown.

Auto retailer Vertu Motors was edged up 1% to 30.3p after booking a sharp fall in annual profit for the year through February, following the writedown of the the value of its assets to reflect the impact of Covid-19 on future performance.

Adjusted pre-tax profit in March was £5.9m, well below normal levels, while April and May saw combined losses of £20m, though that was 'significantly improved' on Virtu's initial forecasts.

AIM-listed fishing tackle and equipment retailer Angling Direct gained 2.4% to 63.5p, even as it booked a full-year loss and warned of a looming hit to earnings from store closures.

Angling Direct also reported a 27% jump in sales and said online sales were 'materially ahead' post Covid-19 lockdowns, having risen 24% in April, with the trend continuing in May.




Story provided by StockMarketWire.com