StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks opened higher on Friday amid rising hopes that US lawmakers can agree on a fresh stimulus package, offsetting concerns about another big jump in local Covid-19 cases.

At 0829, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 20.32 points, or 0.3%, at 5,998.35.

The rise came amid signs that Donald Trump was warming to re-engaging with Democrats about a support package after he came under heavy criticism for pulling out of talks earlier in the week.

In company news, London Stock Exchange rose 0.3% to £88.72 after it agreed to sell its stake in Borsa Italiana to Euronext for €4.33 billion.

London Stock Exchange had entered into exclusive talks with Euronext about a deal last month.

Inter-dealer broker TP ICAP reversed 1.0% to 230.6p on announcing that it had agreed to acquire global electronic trading network Liquidnet for up to $700 million.

TP ICAP said it would partially fund the deal through a $425 million equity raising, at an issue price that had yet to be determined.

Outsourcing group Serco climbed 0.3% to 128.4p after it issued $200 million of corporate bonds in the US, the first time it had tapped Amercia's private placement market in more than seven years.

Also issuing bonds was Chile-focused copper play Antofagasta, which edged 0.1% higher to £10.03 after it priced a $500 million offering of notes due 2030.

Engineering company Wood Group rose 2.8% to 224.5p, having extended a revolving credit facility to 2023 and agreeing to reduce its size to $1.5 billion.

The step down from $1.75 billion would occur in May 2022 and recognized the company's lower debt requirements 'against a backdrop of considerable financial headroom and liquidity', Wood said.

Pub owner Marston's firmed 5.7% to 43.89p on news that a planned £780 million merger of its brewing business with Calsberg had been cleared by UK competition regulators.

Bus and rail company Stagecoach fell 0.6% to 41.7p as it announced that the Covid-19 crisis was still hurting its performance, leading it to stick to a downbeat outlook delivered in July.

On the positive side, Stagecoach said passenger volumes in its regional bus business steadily recovered since April, though it warned more lockdowns could again sap demand.

Waste management group Biffa gained 3.1% to 234.5p on announcing that it acquired Simply Waste Solutions, an industrial and commercial waste collection business in the south of England, for up to £40 million.

The deal included an upfront payment of £35 million and a further £5 million, contingent on the performance of the business through to 31 March 2021.

Tools and equipment rental group Speedy Hire reversed 2.0% to 52.71p, having guided for a 20% slump in annual revenue, though with an improving trend seen in more recent months.

UK and Ireland core hire revenue in September, for instance, was down only 7% year-on-year, Speedy Hire said.

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