Markets recover after terror attacks but Brexit fears pressure the pound
Soaring shares from B&Q owner Kingfisher lifted London's top flight index, as European markets regained their poise after Tuesday's deadly terror attacks in Brussels.
The FTSE 100 Index rose 6.4 points to 6199.1, with Kingfisher leading the gains on the London market and Premier Foods also surging after snubbing takeover approaches worth as much as £495 million.
The Cac 40 in France was down 0.2%, while Germany's Dax lifted 0.3%.
But the pound remained under pressure amid fears over a Brexit vote and following the Brussels attacks. Sterling fell just under 1% against the dollar at 1.40, while the pound also dropped 0.4% against the euro at 1.26.
Commodity stocks were once again under fire following a slip in the price of Brent crude, with miners Anglo American and Fresnillo among the biggest fallers, down 29.8p to 523.5p and 44p to 950p respectively.
The price of Brent crude fell more than a dollar to 40.8 US dollars a barrel after the International Energy Agency said crude oil inventories had reached historically high levels for this time of year.
Among stocks, Kingfisher rose 5.8% or 20.6p to 371.2p as it posted a 0.3% rise in underlying earnings to £686 million, defying expectations for a fall and overshadowing a 20.5% drop in bottom line profits as it counted the cost of overhaul measures.
Mr Kipling cakes firm Premier Foods saw its stock market value jump by nearly two thirds after it revealed it had turned down two approaches by US food group McCormick & Company.
Premier - which also owns brands including Oxo and Bisto - said the potential offers "significantly" undervalued its future growth, but also revealed it had secured a tie-up with noodle giant Nissin Foods.
The pair are forming a "co-operation agreement" to bolster growth overseas and develop new products.
Shares in Premier raced more than 70% higher, up 22.3p to 53.8p.
Back in the top flight, airlines and travel stocks bounced back after hefty declines the previous session following the Belgian terrorist bombings.
British Airways owner International Airlines Group lifted 5p to 554.5p, while easyJet added 11p to 1515p.
Thomson parent TUI was also clawing back ground lost in the previous session, up 12.5p to 987.5p, as was Thomas Cook in the FTSE 250 with a 2.5% gain, up 2.5p to 91.1p.
A shock profit alert at bookmaker William Hill saw its shares tumble 11% in the FTSE 250 Index, down 40.8p to 330p, as it said online trading had been hit by tougher regulation and "the worst Cheltenham results in recent history".
The company said its operating profit for 2016 was now expected to be between £260 million and £280 million.
Sports Direct was another big faller in the second tier, off 5.6% or 21.4p to 357.8p, as it confirmed further pressure on profits after founder Mike Ashley admitted the group was "in trouble".
The firm said full-year earnings are now expected at or around the bottom end of expectations, having already trimmed forecasts when it warned over profits in January.
It comes after shares tumbled 6% on Tuesday after Mr Ashley's comments in an interview with The Times sparked concerns over the group's full-year figures.
The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Kingfisher up 20.6p to 371.2p, Berkeley Group Holdings up 88p to 3285p, Sky up 24p to 1037p, Mediclinic International up 19.5p to 884.5p,
The biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were Anglo American down 29.8p to 523.5p, Fresnillo down 44p to 950p, Glencore down 6.4p to 153.5p, Standard Chartered down 17.1p to 477.6p.