London's benchmark FTSE 100 index ended the day up 14.06 points at 6,565.59, rebounding after hitting a two-week low of 6,551.53 on Wednesday.
That came after a solid reading on US initial weekly unemployment claims - unemployment is the key variable for the short-term economic outlook.
However, today´s news flow again highlighted how times of prolonged economic stress can strain the political debate, which is extremely important when looking further out towards the medium-term. Thus, a Labour proposal overnight to more heavily regulate Energy utilities led once again to sharp falls in the likes of Centrica.
That follows some very critical commentary by some market observers as regards how some of the current economic policies in the UK may be allowing homebuilders to speculate with their land-banks, or so such claims go. Right or wrong, all of the above commentary serves to show just how difficult policy-makers´ choices are, as different constituencies´ interests can often clash. The policies finally adopted can have a very direct bearing on the medium-term outlook for UK capital markets and the economy.
"Today has very much been a day of two halves, with fear dominating the morning session until US optimism dragged the FTSE back out of the red," said Alastair McCaig, Market Analyst at IG. "Traders have spent much of the week waiting for today's economic figures and, now that they're out, a sense of anti-climax has shrouded the trading floor," he said.
US jobless claims dropped from a revised 310,000 to 305,000 in the week ended September 20th, surprising the consensus of analysts who had expected a jump to 325,000. IT issues in a number of regions had distorted figures the week before leading to a higher number of claims. These bottlenecks now seem to be largely resolved.
"While the lingering issues in California could result in a further uptick in continuing claims in coming weeks, it appears that the improved initial claims numbers are more a result of improved labour-market conditions than technical issues," said analyst Cooper Howes from Barclays.
Following a mid-afternoon rally on markets, gains were limited by the close after some US housing figures disappointed. Pending-home sales fell for the third straight month, dropping 1.6% in August after a revised 1.4% decline the month before. Analysts had expected a fall of just 1%.
Economic data from the States continues to be closely watched in the aftermath of the Federal Reserve's surprise decision last week to hold off from tapering stimulus as it await a stronger recovery. Conflicting comments from Fed officials since then have sparked further uncertainty over the future for US monetary policy with analysts now looking ahead to the October meeting for a potential 'taper'.
Uncertainty surrounding US budget negotiations in Washington has also been weighing on market sentiment this week. Investors are hoping that politicians can agree on an extension to the current debt-ceiling limit of $16.7tn ahead of the deadline on October 1st to avoid a government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins.
No less important, although it will surely have had less of an impact on trading conditions today, early on in the session the President of the Federal Reserve bank of Richmond, Jeffrey Lacker, has reportedly said that it will be harder for the US central bank to communicate credibly in the future.
UK economy now more unbalanced
Markets largely gave a subdued reaction to in-line economic data from the UK, as the second and final revision to UK gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the second quarter held steady at 0.7%. US GDP growth meanwhile was unrevised at an annualised rate of 2.5%.
Thursday's balance of payments release showed that the current account deficit in the first quarter was the largest on record - after being revised up to £21.8bn, or 5.5% of GDP, the largest since data began in 1955. Economists highlighted how that shows the UK's external position has become more unbalanced, not less.
There appears to have been an unusually large surge in profits paid overseas and drop in receipts by domestic owners of overseas firms in the first quarter, both of which were reversed in the second quarter, economists at Barclays Research explained.
FTSE 100: TUI Travel jumps after lifting guidance
Tour operator TUI Travel jumped after hiking its profit guidance for the full year on the back of a strong summer season and early bookings for the winter.
Compass Group gained after saying expectations for the full year were unchanged, with organic revenues set to have risen by just over 4% and profit margins to have grown slightly.
Tullow Oil also rose after announcing a new oil discovery in Northern Kenya. The group said results of drilling, wireline logs and samples of reservoir fluid indicate a potential net oil pay in the Auwerwer and Upper Lokone sandstone reservoirs of between 60 and 100 metres.
British Gas owner Centrica and utility group SSE were leading the downside, extending losses after this week's proposal by Labour leader Ed Miliband to freeze energy bills if the party is voted back into power in 2015.
Banking and financial stocks were also providing a drag, with Barclays, Hargreaves Lansdown and Standard Chartered among the worst performers. Insurer Admiral however was bucking the trend, registering decent gains by the close.
FTSE 250: Soco Intl retreats after going ex-dividend
Soco International shares
started trading without the entitlement to a 40p dividend. SOCO announced on Wednesday that the drill stem tests thus far on the TGT-10XST1 well exploration well on the H5 fault block of the Te Giac Trang ("TGT") field exceeded all pre-test expectations.
Ladbrokes slumped after warning that 2013 profits for its digital operations would come in a long way below current market forecasts. It said it expected 2013 Digital operating profits to be between £10m and £14m compared with a market consensus of about £27.5m. Numis and Canaccord Genuity downgraded their ratings for the stock this morning.
Tour operator Thomas Cook also fell sharply after reporting a decline in bookings in the UK over summer and flat sales in Europe. In a trading update ahead of the company's full-year 2013 results in November, the group said UK bookings were down 3% on last year with a capacity reduction of 2.5%.
Iron ore producer Ferrexpo was a high riser after Macquarie upgraded its rating on the stock to 'neutral' and lifted its target price from 155p to 180p.
Edited by Alex Bueso
FTSE 100 - Risers
TUI Travel (TT.) 370.40p +3.93%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,035.00p +3.34%
Compass Group (CPG) 849.50p +2.35%
G4S (GFS) 253.40p +1.97%
Schroders (SDR) 2,623.00p +1.94%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 344.75p +1.56%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,248.00p +1.55%
BAE Systems (BA.) 468.00p +1.45%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 933.50p +1.25%
British Land Co (BLND) 590.50p +1.03%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Centrica (CNA) 366.90p -2.32%
SSE (SSE) 1,460.00p -1.95%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 995.50p -1.63%
Experian (EXPN) 1,199.00p -1.40%
Barclays (BARC) 269.20p -1.39%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,287.00p -1.23%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,507.50p -0.89%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 202.00p -0.79%
Pearson (PSON) 1,253.00p -0.71%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,650.00p -0.66%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Man Group (EMG) 87.25p +4.43%
Polymetal International (POLY) 689.50p +4.15%
AZ Electronic Materials SA (DI) (AZEM) 310.80p +4.12%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 47.29p +3.82%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 163.70p +3.02%
Xaar (XAR) 799.00p +2.90%
IP Group (IPO) 144.00p +2.86%
Diploma (DPLM) 650.00p +2.77%
Workspace Group (WKP) 444.80p +2.63%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 182.00p +2.59%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Soco International (SIA) 394.00p -8.37%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 173.80p -7.60%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 145.30p -6.62%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 408.90p -4.62%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 936.50p -4.00%
Playtech (PTEC) 721.00p -3.03%
Redrow (RDW) 230.20p -2.42%
Countrywide (CWD) 544.50p -2.42%
Oxford Instruments (OXIG) 1,281.00p -2.36%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 543.00p -2.16%