Mining stocks helped the UK’s top share index to its third straight day of gains on the back of some encouraging import data from China.
The emerging global superpower, which is the world’s top consumer of metals, saw imports rise 14%, more than twice the 6% figure that had been expected.
ENRC (LON:ENRC) and Vedanta Resources (LON:VED) topped the chart, up 6.4% and 5.8% respectively on the news. The latter was boosted further by a good write-up by JPMorgan Cazenove, which reinstated its ‘overweight’ recommendation and £15 target price on the shares. Steelmaker Evraz (LON:EVR) got a 3.6% boost from the Chinese news.
Budget airline easyJet (LON:EZJ) shares lifted 4.3% to £10.66 after a big upgrade from Citi analysts, who now rate the stock a ‘buy’ with a target price of more than £12.
Another airline group IAG (LON:IAG), which owns British Airways and Iberia, rose 3.5% as its chief executive denied it will merge Iberia with its new Spanish carrier Vueling if it is successful in its takeover of the airline. IAG already owns 46% of Vueling but is bidding to get its hands on it outright.
InterContinental Hotels (LON:IHG), which recently sold off the famous Park Lane hotel in London, was the biggest faller, down 1.6%.
Over on the FTSE 250, the story was much the same, with the index up 0.85%. Shares in chemical materials company AZ Electronic Materials (LON:AZEM) slumped yesterday after a profits warning. But the shares recovered 15% of their value on Wednesday, helped by a ringing endorsement from the Square Mile.
UBS reckons the sell-off is overdone, upgrading the shares to ‘buy’, while Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs are both confident the shares will do well, with long-term growth drivers still intact.
Elsewhere, shares in copper producer Kazakhmys (LON:KAZ), which was recently booted out of the top tier, added 7% thanks to China’s renewed thirst for materials from abroad. Iron ore pellet producer Ferrexpo (LON:FXPO), which boosted production yesterday at its Ukraine operations, extended its gains on the news.
The housebuilders were helped higher by the news sales of flats and houses reached a three-year peak in March. The shares were also boosted by advice from brokers to buy into property shares ahead of the launch of George Osborne’s new Help to Buy scheme.
HSBC reckons the programme to provide equity loans of up to 20% of the value of a newly-built home worth as much as £600,000 will be “a big boost for housebuilders”. Barratt (LON:BDEV), Bellway (LON:BWY), as well as property investors Derwent London (LON:DLN) all picked up on Wednesday.
Halfords (LON:HFD) rose after its first quarter results were in line with expectations as the car parts-to-bikes retailer beat off the snow to boost like-for-like sales by a touch. Sales of its bikes fell due to the big freeze.
Over on AIM, innovative digital advertising company MediaZest (LON:MDZ) almost trebled in value today as it revealed it had signed a contract worth £1mln. The shares rose 160% to 0.273p each, still valuing the company at less than £900,000.
Other slightly less impressive gains could also be found on the junior market. Landore Resources (LON:LND) picked up 11% to stand at 5p a share, with the stock climbing 19% over the past five days alone.
Investors bought into the new and improved SacOil (LON:SAC). The Africa-focused company rose 10% when it sealed a debt-to-equity conversion deal with Gairloch that sees the private investment company take a 34% stake in the oil firm.
Deltex Medical (LON:DEMG) added 9% after its oesophageal Doppler monitoring (ODM) system has been assigned its own payment code for use in the US state & federal Medicaid system. The existence of the code will make it much easier and swifter for doctors to be reimbursed the costs of using ODM products.
Others doing well on Wednesday included Zoo Digital (LON:ZOO). The company has licensed its new cloud-based media production software ZOOcore to US publisher Hachette, which will use it for the preparation and conversion of electronic books. Shares rose 7%.
Elsewhere, crowdsourcing specialist blur Group (LON:BLUR) shed another 13%, but the shares are still some way above October’s float price.