StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks started Friday's session on a positive note with the FTSE 100 index hitting a new high for the year of 7,242 in early trading. That put the UK market at a higher level than at any of its closing prices year to date.

By 11.40am, those gains had eased back a bit, but the index still traded 0.3% ahead at 7,227.

The strong finish to the week followed a positive overnight performance in the US, and in Asia where markets ended Friday on a good note.

Oil prices continued to gain with Brent crude futures almost touching $85 per barrel, causing major headaches for energy-intensive businesses. Sterling also firmed against the dollar to hit $1.3720, adding to the headwinds facing companies which rely on exports.

COMPANY NEWS

International Consolidated Airlines enjoyed a 2.9% lift, with fellow airlines EasyJet, Jet2 and Wizz Air also rising. This followed clarity from the UK Government on relaxing some of the rules for travellers around testing, with anyone returning to England able to take cheaper lateral flow tests from 24 October. That news could trigger a flurry of last-minute flight bookings for half-term.

Education publisher Pearson reported a 10% increase in underlying profit for the nine months to September and said it was on target to meet full year expectations. It also said 2 million people had registered for its new American learning app.

However, the shares tanked, falling 12.1% to 641p as investors didn't like news of weakness in US community college enrolments, following a surge in Covid cases in the back to school period and because of strengthening in the US jobs market.

Shares in banking group HSBC rose 1.8% to 432p in response to analysts at Barclays and Bank of America raising their price targets on the stock.

In a third quarter product update, mining group Rio Tinto reduced its guidance for iron ore shipments, sending its shares 1% to £50.62.

A tight labour market and supply chain issues have delayed the completion of a new mine at Rio's Pilbara site in Australia.

The company also posted an update on third-quarter production showing production at Pilbara fell 4% to 83.3 million tonnes, while shipments were up 2% to 71.1 million tonnes year-on-year.

OTHER NEWS

Shares in pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca drifted 0.5% lower to £87.69 despite confirmation that a late-stage trial for its liver cancer drug had met its primary goal, demonstrating a 'statistically significant and clinically meaningful' overall survival benefit.

Asset manager Jupiter Fund Management advanced 3.4% to 247.8p after the group reported an increase in assets under management as positive investment performance offset net outflows.

Property firm Land Securities said it had collected 85% of rent in respect of the September 2021 quarter, up from 81% at the same stage for the June quarter. The shares nudged up 0.5% to 701.2p.


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