StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks made modest gains in early trade on Wednesday after a rally on Wall Street saw the the Dow Jones Industrial Average breach the 30,000 point mark for the first time.

Sentiment has been buoyed by Covid-19 vaccine hopes and a market embrace of senior personnel picks by president-elect Joe Biden, including former federal reserve chair Janet Yellen as treasury secretary.

At 0820, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 5.82 points, or 0.1%, at 6,437.99, adding to Tuesday's 1.2% gain.

Banking group Virgin Money UK dropped 6.4% to 137.55p, having posted a £168 million annual loss after its margins shrank and it booked a higher credit impairment charge to account for unpaid loans during the Covid-19 crisis.

Virgin Money's underlying profit, which excluded transformation costs and legacy conduct charges, slumped 77% to £124 million. Impairment losses on credit exposures roughly doubled to £507 million.

Defence company Babcock International fell 6.2% to 332.96p after its first-half profit was dented by higher costs and weakness in its civil nuclear business.

Babcock did not declare an interim dividend, citing ongoing uncertainty from the impact of Covid-19.

Water supplier United Utilities climbed 3.3% to 925.6p, even as it posted a 16% fall in first-half underlying profit after new pricing controls hurt its revenue.

United Utilities nevertheless declared an interim dividend of 14.41p, up 1.5% year-on-year, citing the strength of its balance sheet.

Home improvement retailer Kingfisher slipped 0.8% to 275.3p following news that it had acquired NeedHelp, an online DIY services marketplaces, for about €10 million.

Flow control and instrumentation group Rotork firmed 3.8% to 330.08p on announcing that it expected its annual adjusted operating profit to be at, or slightly above, the top end of the range of current market expectations.

Rotork's company-complied range of market expectations for adjusted operating profit in the year through December was £124 million-to-£136 million.

Engineering group Melrose Industries rallied 7.8% to 175.85p as it, too, said it was trading at the top end of its expectations for 2020.

Melrose said the relatively upbeat performance reflected a faster-than-expected recovery in automotive markets and a continued strong performance at its Nortek Air Management division.

Wealth manager Brewin Dolphin fell 0.9% to 290p after it trimmed its dividend as annual profit slipped amid higher costs that offset increased net inflows and income.

Brewin Dolphin declared a final dividend of 9.9p per share, bringing the total for 2020 to 14.3p per share, down from 16.4p per share a year earlier.

Furniture retailer ScS shed 3.1% to 192.32p, its order intake having dropped off precipitously in recent weeks due to fresh national lockdowns.

ScS's order intake in the 17 weeks between 26 July and 21 November grew 15%, including growth of 32% in the first 14 of those weeks. In the final three, however, order intake had plummeted 65%.

Clinical technology company Sensyne Health added 3.5% to 143.9p on signing a five-year non-exclusive research agreement with Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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