(Alliance News) - The FTSE 100 in London hit a fresh record on Wednesday, as investors shake off nerves ahead of a key US inflation reading this afternoon.

At the top of the FTSE 100 index at midday were Experian and Imperial Brands. The FTSE 250 also got a boost thanks to Hunting shooting up 22%.

The FTSE 100 index was up 21.63 points, 0.3%, at 8,449.76. The FTSE 100 hit a new record of 8,474.41 earlier Wednesday morning.

The FTSE 250 was up 86.51 points, 0.4%, at 20,705.03, and the AIM All-Share was up 0.28 of a point at 790.01.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.2% at 843.69, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.7% at 18,031.67, and the Cboe Small Companies was up 0.4% at 16,191.65.

In European equities on Wednesday, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.2%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.5%.

"The market's optimism is starting to look rather heroic. Despite higher than anticipated factory gate prices, US stocks made progress overnight and the FTSE 100 has followed this cue to reach a new record high," says AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

The next test for markets is the US consumer price reading this afternoon. The data is out at 1330 BST.

According to FXStreet-cited consensus, consumer prices are expected to have risen 3.4% annually in April, cooling slightly from 3.5% in March.

Analysts at ING said the data will be "pivotal".

US producer prices rose as expected in April on-year, quickening from March and swinging to inflation on a monthly basis, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday.

The US producer price index for final demand rose by 0.5% in April from March, swinging from slight deflation of 0.1% in March from February and beating expectations of a 0.3% rise.

Annually, US producer prices rose by 2.2% in April, in line with expectations, while the BLS noted it marked the largest increase since rising 2.3% for the 12 months ended April 2023. In March, prices had risen by 1.8% on-year.

Stocks in New York were called to open mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index are called up marginally, however the Nasdaq Composite is called down slightly.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2616 at midday on Wednesday in London, higher compared to USD1.2582 at the equities close on Tuesday. The euro stood at USD1.0827, up against USD1.0818. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY155.82, lower compared to JPY156.41.

In the FTSE 100, Experian led the charge, rising 6.6%.

In an upbeat statement alongside results for the year to March, the Dublin-based consumer credit checker said full-year growth was "was at the top end of our expectations."

Experian said pretax profit in the year ended March 31 jumped 32% to USD1.55 billion from USD1.17 billion a year prior. Revenue rose 7.3% to USD7.10 billion from USD6.62 billion.

Reflecting the strong performance, Experian upped its full year dividend by 7% to 58.50 cents from 54.75 cents.

Imperial Brands rose 4.6%.

The London-based tobacco and nicotine product company, whose brands include Gauloises and L&B, reported GBP1.49 billion in operating profit for the six months ended March 31, down 2.6% from GBP1.53 billion a year prior. Revenue for the half was down 2.3% to GBP15.06 billion from GBP15.41 billion.

Imperial raised its interim dividend 4.0% to 44.90p from 43.18p.

In the FTSE 250, Hunting shot up 22%, after it announced a record order from Kuwait Oil Co.

The London-based manufacturer of equipment for the energy industry said it has secured a record USD145 million order from the Kuwaiti firm for oil country tubular goods.

Management now anticipates earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation at the top end of its USD125 million to USD135 million guidance.

Keller rose 16%.

The London-based geotechnical engineering firm said that in the first fourth months of 2024, its "strong momentum" continued. It noted that overall performance was materially ahead of prior year.

Britvic shot up 11%.

The Hemel Hempstead, England-based soft drinks maker, behind brands such as Robinsons squash and R White's lemonade, said pretax profit rose 13% to GBP78.2 million in the six months ended March from GBP69.3 million a year prior. This came as revenue climbed 11% to GBP880.3 million from GBP794.0 million.

Chief Executive Simon Litherland described the results as "excellent".

Amongst London's small-caps, Zotefoams rose 13%.

The cellular material technology provider reported "good progress" towards commercialisation of ReZorce beverage cartons.

Chief Executive David Stirling commented: "The announcements we are making today are indicative of the gathering momentum on this project. We are proud that Refresco, a world leader in its field, has recognised the potential of ReZorce and has chosen to partner with us to accelerate its commercial launch."

Brent oil was quoted at USD82.37 a barrel at midday in London on Wednesday, up from USD82.25 late Tuesday.

Gold was quoted at USD2,369.40 an ounce, up against USD2,351.24.

Still to come on Wednesday's economic calendar, there is US retail sales data.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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