Markets finished at their highest levels in two and a half weeks on Monday despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the US debt ceiling, as a deal to raise the borrowing limit still remains elusive.
The FTSE 100 finished 20.46 points higher at 6,507.65, its best level since September 27th when it ended the session at 6,512.66. Alastair McCaig, Market Analyst at IG, said that today's gains are "more impressive when you consider the lethargy of traders at large today".
"The City's traders have become increasingly accustomed to delayed trains, slow running undergrounds and increasingly miserable weather, and judging by the market's reaction this morning we can also add US political indecision to the list," McCaig said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he held productive talks with Republican leader Mitch McConnell over the weekend but failed to reach a plan over the debt ceiling. Nevertheless, he said discussions were "substantive" and that he's "optimistic about the prospects for a positive conclusion".
Stocks on Wall Street started today's session in negative territory but had pared losses by the close in London ahead of a meeting between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders later on this evening. According to a White House official, Obama "will make clear the need for Congress to act to pay our bills, and reopen the government".
Chinese data comes in mixed
A mixed batch of economic data from China was also in focus today. Trade figures showed an unexpected 0.3% year-on-year decline in exports in September as a result of weak global demand.
However, imports jumped by 7.4% which, along with a pick-up in consumer price inflation to 3.1% in August, suggests that domestic demand is strengthening.
Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari said this is "is crucial for the country to successfully transform away from an export-led model to one more focused on consumer spending".
FTSE 100: Banks provide a drag
Royal Bank of Scotland was a heavy faller today after being hit with a downgrade by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The US broker lowered its rating for RBS from 'neutral' to 'underperform, cutting its price target from 345p to 325p, and also removed Lloyds (still a 'buy') from its 'Europe 1' list, saying: "A combination of share-price performance, margin dynamics and capital 'mist' push us to turn more cautious on the UK banks."
Leading the risers this afternoon was chemicals group Johnson Matthey jumped on Monday after the stock was upgraded by JPMorgan Cazenove from 'neutral' to 'overweight'. The US bank hiked its target price for the shares
from 2,800p to 4,000p, saying that it sees "major potential from a swathe of new global industrial capex".
Travis Perkins shares were also heading higher after Bank of America lifted its rating from 'underperform' to 'buy' and its target price from 1,460p to 1,900p.
Beverages group SABMiller was trading in the red after the stock was downgraded by Citigroup from 'buy' to 'neutral' and its target price was cut from 3,550p to 3,200p, while Glencore Xstrata dropped after Liberum Capital reduced its rating on the miner from 'buy' to 'hold'.
FTSE 250: Michael Page plunges after mixed update
Recruitment group Michael Page International fell sharply after a mixed third quarter, as improved performances in the UK and US were counterbalanced by flat sales in Europe and declines in Asia Pacific. Gross profit increased by just 0.4% year-on-year at constant currency.
Chemring, the defence firm, continued to extend Friday's heavy losses after the group issued a profit warning, saying that it was suffering as a result of the US crisis, as well as production troubles and unrest in the Middle East. JPMorgan Cazenove cut its rating on the stock to 'neutral' today.
Meanwhile, Afren shares were heading north after Goldman Sachs Group reaffirmed its 'conviction buy' rating on the stock.
Set-top box group Pace was also a high riser, jumping the most in over two, after Bloomberg said that Netflix is in talks to add TV subscription-streaming services to set-top boxes of US cable-TV operators.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,987.00p +5.88%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,763.00p +5.07%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 336.00p +3.35%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 1,963.00p +2.72%
CRH (CRH) 1,540.00p +2.53%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 786.00p +1.88%
William Hill (WMH) 419.90p +1.87%
BAE Systems (BA.) 443.80p +1.72%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,009.00p +1.61%
BT Group (BT.A) 353.50p +1.55%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
SABMiller (SAB) 2,970.00p -1.46%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 331.20p -1.40%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 371.70p -1.38%
Centrica (CNA) 358.70p -1.27%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,585.00p -1.25%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,469.50p -1.21%
Diageo (DGE) 1,953.50p -0.99%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,465.00p -0.81%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,360.00p -0.80%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,263.00p -0.71%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Afren (AFR) 145.60p +6.98%
Diploma (DPLM) 645.50p +4.96%
Pace (PIC) 274.50p +4.77%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 360.00p +4.05%
Beazley (BEZ) 217.00p +3.63%
Greencore Group (GNC) 160.40p +3.62%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 738.50p +3.36%
CSR (CSR) 517.00p +3.30%
Computacenter (CCC) 553.50p +3.17%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 146.80p +3.09%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Michael Page International (MPI) 470.00p -4.95%
Chemring Group (CHG) 211.10p -4.05%
Supergroup (SGP) 1,052.00p -2.41%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 1,971.00p -2.28%
Soco International (SIA) 398.00p -2.14%
Betfair Group (BET) 985.00p -1.99%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 125.30p -1.96%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 25.25p -1.75%
Senior (SNR) 252.90p -1.48%
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 115.60p -1.37%