StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks opened more than 1% higher on Wednesday as progress on Covid vaccines and US stimulus continued to fuel hopes the global economy was on the mend.

At 0825, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 70.78 points, or 1.1%, at 6,684.62.

Insurance company Hiscox tumbled 13% to 856.79p after it swung to a $268.5 million annual pre-tax loss, driven by event cancellation and business interruption claims owing to the pandemic.

Hiscox said it decided not to declare a final dividend, but would consider resuming payments in 2021 when it published interim results.

House builder Persimmon rose 0.3% to £27.17, even as it reported a 25% fall in annual profit and slashed its dividend to 110p per share, after construction markets were battered by the pandemic.

On a brighter note, Persimmon said it was committed to a total dividend of 235p per share in 2021, and was targeting a full return to 2019 home completion levels in 2022.

Enterprise software company Micro Focus International jumped 14% to 499.3p on news that it had signed a commercial agreement with Amazon's web services business.

The agreement would see the companies 'accelerate the modernization of mainframe applications and workloads' of large enterprises to Amazon's cloud computing products.

Mining titan Rio Tinto fell 0.7% to 64.78 on announcing that chairman Simon Thompson would stand down next year, joining other leaders that have departed the company after it blasted ancient Australian cave sites.

Senior directors Sam Laidlaw and Simon McKeon would lead the search for Thompson's replacement.

Precious metals miner Polymetal was having a brighter morning, firming 2.8% to £14.793, as its annual profit more than doubled to a record after it cashed in on a surge in gold prices.

Polymetal hiked its annual dividend 57% as its net earnings for the year through December jumped to $1.09 billion, up from $483 million year-on-year.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca added 0.5% to £69.14 after it won a favourable court ruling in the US against Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Kindeva Drug Delivery upholding patent claims.

Gambling software group Playtech added 2.1% to 499.1p following neww that it had appointed Brian Mattingley as its chairman.

Mattingley was currently chairman of rival gambling group 888 and would take up his new role at Playtech on 1 June.

Recruitment company Page rose 0.7% to 490.09p, despite booking an 89% slump in annual profit after the pandemic hit job markets.

Page said there remained a high degree of global macro-economic uncertainty in many of its markets, though it was encouraged by recent government announcements about lockdowns easing.

Advertising company WPP gained 1.0% to 889.9p, having acquired commerce services group for retailers NN4M, for an undisclosed sum.

Edinburgh-based NN4M employed 50 people and worked with brands including Selfridges, Nestle and River Island.

Packaging company DS Smith shed 0.3% to 402p on announcing that it was trading in line with its expectations, with higher box volumes offset by a rise in input costs.

DS Smith said it had started to recover these additional costs through higher packaging prices.

Africa-focused fuel retailer Vivo Energy gained 0.2% to 89.7p, even having booked a 40% drop in annual profit, owing to lower demand for petrol during the pandemic.

Vivo, however, also said it would increase its dividend payout ratio amid a recovery in trading conditions. Story provided by StockMarketWire.com