StockMarketWire.com - Weakness in the pound amid warnings on the health of the UK economy from the Bank of England and concerns over a no deal Brexit helped erase the FTSE 100's losses by lunchtime on Tuesday.

A fall in sterling helps boost the relative value of overseas earnings from the big constituents of the index, which was up 0.4% at 5,905.75 by midday. US futures markets pointed to a mildly positive start on Wall Street despite continuing uncertainty over the fate of a big stimulus package.

Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser rose 1.8% to £73.32, having upgraded its annual revenue guidance as it reported a 6.9% rise in third-quarter sales buoyed by higher demand for hygiene products during the pandemic.

Reckitt Benckiser's like-for-like revenue growth for the year through December was now expected in the 'low double digits', up from previous guidance of the 'high single digits'. Like-for-like growth in the third quarter was 13%.

Mining giant BHP fell 0.7% to £16.02 after it affirmed its annual output targets but said it had shelved a $2.5 billion expansion of its massive Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.

Pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca added 0.3% to £81.31 after one of its lung cancer drug candidates was granted a priority regulatory review in the US.

Housebuilder Bellway fell 3.4% to £25.37 as it halved its dividend on the back of a slump in annual profit pinned on virus-led disruptions to construction activity.

On a brighter note, Bellway said productivity levels were improving and that its forward order book stood at a record £1.87 billion, up from £1.31 billion year-on-year.

IT products and services provider Softcat dropped 7.3% to £11.51 as it upped its annual dividend, but shrunk its special payout, having reported a 10% rise in annual profit.

On its outlook, Softcat said that while the new financial year had started well, it expected corporate customers 'to continue to be circumspect with their spending over the coming months'.

Train and bus ticket seller Trainline reversed 13.2% to 289.2p on news that chief executive Clare Gilmartin would stand down at the end of February, and be replaced by current operations head Jody Ford.

Gilmartin, who would remain at Trainline as a senior advisor, said the decision was personal and that she wanted to spend more time with her family.

Pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan fell 3% to 28.3p, giving up earlier gains, following news that it had won a contract with the UK government worth about £10 million to develop a Covid-19 human challenge study model.

Challenge studies involve participants intentionally being infected with a pathogen to test the efficacy of treatments and vaccines.

Defence contractor TP sank 17% to 5.8p as it posted a deeper first-half loss despite its sales rising by a third, as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted operations and hurt margins.

Online gambling group Gamesys fell 3.2% to £12.69 despite announcing that its performance in the third quarter was ahead of its expectations, as revenue increased by nearly a third, underpinned by customer growth.

Computer, power and communications products marker Solid State fell 5% to 594p on guiding for a flat annual profit performance, as revenue fell modestly in the first half.

Lighting and portable power products maker Luceco raised its full-year guidance after reporting better-than-expected revenue growth amid a rise in demand. Its shares were up 11.6% at 244.5p.


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