- UK stocks rallied on Thursday as signs of progress by US pharma giant Pfizer in developing a coronavirus vaccine rekindled hopes of an eventual economic recovery.

Meanwhile, the UK offered residency and eventual citizenship for up to three million Hong Kong residents following a new security law imposed by Beijing. The Chinese embassy in the UK said the offer would be stopped with 'corresponding measures'.

By midday the FTSE 100 benchmark was up 0.6% to 6,192 points while the FTSE 250 mid-cap index gained 1% to 17,363 points.

Associated British Food jumped 5.5% to £20.71, topping the list of FTSE 100 gainers despite forecasting a sharp decline in Primark revenue after sales slipped 75% in the third quarter owing to store closures during lockdown.

For the full year, the company expects strong progress in group operating profits thanks to strong performances from its sugar, grocery, agriculture and ingredients businesses.

Shares in Meggitt climbed 6.8% to 326p even as it warned of a hit to first-half group revenue, which it expects to be 15% lower than in the same period a year earlier due to lower sales in both its civil aerospace and energy divisions.

The component supplier to the defence and aerospace sectors said that in the second quarter widespread lockdowns had a 'material impact' on its civil aerospace business.

Lekoil gushed 9.5% higher to 2.4p as it reported its subsidiary Lekoil Oil and Gas Investments had secured a US$3.5m prepayment facility agreement with Shell Western Supply.

Air Partner soared 8.7% to 91.5p on the news it had performed 'significantly ahead' of budget in June and had seen a recovery in both its private jet and safety and security businesses following weakness earlier this year.

Mitchells & Butlers added 4.9% to 201p as it reported a pre-tax loss of £121m in its half-year but said it had been 'encouraged' that sales levels have grown each week at its German business since it re-opened in May.

LondonMetric Property rose 2.1% to 216.2p on the news that it would increase its first-quarter dividend following high levels of rent collection in the quarter.

The company said that 95% of advance rental payments due up to 24 June had been collected.

4D Pharma edged down 0.9% to 40.5p despite news that its phase 2 clinical trial of a drug to treat the respiratory symptoms associated with Covid-19 was now open to enrolment, with the dosing of the first patients expected shortly.

Packaging firm DS Smith folded 8.1% to 293p making it the worst performer in the FSTE 100 after it reported a 2% decline in revenue to £6.04 billion in its full-year results, due to reduced pricing and volumes in Europe.

Although the firm said it saw a 'relatively limited' impact on operating profit of approximately £15 million in the final two months of the year from the COVID-19 pandemic, it claimed that due to the uncertain outlook for the rest of the year it would not be reinstating dividends, disappointing investors.

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