UK stocks jumped nearly 1% on Wednesday morning, partly reversing steep losses experienced the previous session, as stimulus hopes in China and an improvement in global manufacturing repaired sentiment.
London's FTSE 100 was up 0.98% at 6,839.14 by midday, after dropping 1.7% to 6,773.04 on Tuesday, its lowest close since 13 March.
Purchasing managers' indices (PMIs) on manufacturing sectors in the UK, Europe and China all showed an improvement in March, though mixed data in the latter continued to put more pressure on Beijing to act.
The official Chinese manufacturing PMI bounced back above the 50 neutral mark for the first time in three months in March, rising from 49.9 to 50.1. Meanwhile, the final estimate of HSBC's own survey was revised from 49.2 to 49.6, though still down from 50.7 in February.
While both readings beat analysts' expectations, they showed that industrial employers shed more jobs last month, prompting further speculation that the People's Bank of China may step in to shore up growth.
"Today's PMI readings suggest that manufacturing conditions, among large firms at least, have held up better than expected. But this doesn't do away with the need for more policy support to prevent growth from slipping further," analysts at Capital Economics said.
Things were a little brighter closer to home as the final estimate of the Eurozone manufacturing PMI for March being revised to an 11-month high of 52.2 (initial reading: 51.9, February: 51), while the UK manufacturing PMI rose from 54 to 54.4 (forecast: 54.4).
Banking stocks rise
Specialist British bank Shawbrook made a stunning stock market debut on Wednesday in London with shares
rallying to 305p, well above the top of its preset price range of 290p.
Other banks such as Barclays, Lloyds and RBS were also performing well. Lloyds in particular was benefiting from a ratings upgrade to 'hold' by Jefferies who forecast a "more meaningful dividend" this year.
Asos saw profits fall by a tenth in the first half as a sharp drop in margins outweighed a strong sales performance, though results still beat analysts' expectations. The online fashion retailer also said it believes momentum is building because of its recent investments in price cuts and zonal pricing.
Oil major Shell was making gains after being given the green light by the US government to restart an exploration campaign in the Alaskan Arctic.
Russia-focused steelmaker Evraz surged after pledging to buy-back shares despite reporting a net loss of $1.28bn last year.
FirstGroup rose strongly after saying trading for the year to the end of March had remained in line with expectations, with progress continuing on its medium-term transformation plans.
Aerospace and defence giant Rolls-Royce edged lower after being cut to 'underperform' from 'market perform' at Bernstein who cited "emerging challenges" in two of the company's divisions.
Down on AIM, Nationwide Accident Repair Services surged after directors accepted a £43.2m cash takeover offer from private equity colossus Carlyle, a month after major shareholder Quindell sold its stake.
techMARK 3,156.74 +0.43%
FTSE 100 6,839.14 +0.98%
FTSE 250 17,141.03 +0.29%
FTSE 100 - Risers
Barclays (BARC) 251.45p +3.65%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,226.00p +3.29%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 80.10p +2.33%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,147.50p +2.31%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,581.50p +2.30%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 347.50p +2.21%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,050.50p +2.12%
Friends Life Group Limited (FLG) 422.20p +2.08%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 621.50p +2.05%
Aviva (AV.) 550.50p +1.94%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Kingfisher (KGF) 373.70p -1.81%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 255.80p -1.31%
Glencore (GLEN) 283.20p -0.94%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 727.00p -0.75%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,659.00p -0.72%
Shire Plc (SHP) 5,335.00p -0.56%
3i Group (III) 480.00p -0.50%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 526.00p -0.47%
Centrica (CNA) 251.90p -0.43%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,467.50p -0.41%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 199.50p +6.29%
FirstGroup (FGP) 94.80p +4.23%
IP Group (IPO) 233.70p +3.41%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 899.00p +3.33%
Marston's (MARS) 156.60p +2.82%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 2,395.00p +2.79%
Card Factory (CARD) 303.10p +2.64%
Renishaw (RSW) 2,505.00p +2.58%
Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) 62.40p +2.38%
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (UDG) 483.00p +2.22%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Drax Group (DRX) 354.10p -2.69%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 142.10p -2.47%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 5,760.00p -2.46%
Acacia Mining (ACA) 255.80p -2.37%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 365.50p -2.27%
Interserve (IRV) 568.00p -2.07%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 211.10p -1.81%
Pace (PIC) 339.50p -1.59%
Polymetal International (POLY) 567.00p -1.56%
Worldwide Healthcare Trust (WWH) 1,900.00p -1.55%