StockMarketWire.com - There were few major surprises in Rishi Sunak's budget to spook the markets and the FTSE 100 closed the day off its highs but still up a material 0.9% to 6,675.47.

Hospitality and leisure business and housebuilders appeared to be the major market winners as expected, with BT shares also in demand as it was seen as big beneficiary of the 'super deduction' tax relief available on business investment. It rose 6.7% to 134.3p

In the US the S&P 500 was broadly flat at 3,867.11 by 4.30pm UK time.

Insurance company Hiscox tumbled 11.2% to 871.6p 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.

Housebuilder Persimmon rose 6.2% to £28.79, 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 13.6% to 498.2p 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 was flat at £64.35 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 gained 1% to £14.53, 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 dipped 1.3% to £67.94 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 3.7% to 507p 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 gained 0.7% to 490p, 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 3.1% to 908.8p, 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 gained 3.5% to 417p 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.


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