StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks opened higher in early trading on Wednesday as concerns about the Omicrom coronavirus variant continued to cool amid early signs that it could cause milder symptoms.

At 0823, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 20.28 points, or 0.3%, at 7,360.18, extending Tuesday's 1.2% gain.

House builder Berkley rallied 5.5% after it posted a 26% rise in first-half profit and raised its annual guidance.

Berkeley said its expectations for the current financial year through April had been upped by around 5% from previous guidance for pre-tax profits similar to the prior year's £518.1 million.

Tourism group TUI dropped 4.9% to 206.89p despite dramatically narrowing fourth-quarter losses after an easing of pandemic restrictions boosted sales.

Still, TUI said that winter bookings were tracking at a level that would see them come in at the lower end of its assumptions.

Miniature wargames company Games Workshop slumped 6.8% to £91.00 after it forecast a drop in first-half profit pinned on rising costs, including higher staff wages, that had offset higher sales.

Games Workshop's pre-tax profit for the six months through 28 November was expected to be no less than £86 million, down from £91.6 million year-on-year.

British Gas owner Centrica was broadly flat at 67.67p following news that subsidiary Spirit Energy had agreed to sell it Norwegian assets for about £800 million.

Centrica was expected to receive £560 million in proceeds from its 69% stake in Spirit Energy.

Convenience store group McColl's Retail climbed 2.5% to 12.25p even after it said it expected to post a fall in annual earnings, citing pandemic restrictions and supply chain challenges.

McColl's adjusted earnings for the year through 28 November were expected to be between £46 million and £48 million, down from £57.9 million year-on-year.

Travel-hub food and drinks group SSP gained 1.1% despite it posting another annual loss as the pandemic continued to hammer the travel sector.

SSP's pre-tax losses for the year through September amounted to £411.2 million, compared to year-on-year losses of £425.8 million. It still expected a return to like-for-like revenue at 2019 levels by 2024.

Fund manager Man Group firmed 4.0% to 224.4p after it launched a $250 million share buyback.

The buyback programme would run from 8 December 2021 through to 7 December 2022, with an initial tranche of $125 million.

Fashion retailer Quiz rose 3.5% to 19.05p after underlying earnings improved amid a post-lockdown doubling of sales, though it still posted a bottom-line loss.

Quiz said it was confident that it can return to profitability in a trading environment not significantly impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

Bus and train company Stagecoach, which has agreed to be acquired by rival National Express, advanced 1.6% to 77.9p, having posted a rise in first-half profit as passenger volumes recovered post-lockdown.

Stagecoach's pre-tax profit for the six months through October increased to £31.1 million, up from £5.4 million year-on-year, as revenue jumped 27% to £579.4 million.

Financial services outfit Numis added 1.1% to 334.56p on doubling its annual profit, with growth underpinned by a strong showing from its investment banking division.

Numis's full-year dividend was 'rebased' to 13.5p, up 12.5% year-on-year.

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