- FTSE 100 at highest since December 2nd after Fed taper
- Fed scales back stimulus, gives guidance on rates
- Carnival jumps late on after FY results
- Pharmaceutical and life insurance stocks rise
techMARK 2,735.02 +1.40%
FTSE 100 6,584.70 +1.43%
FTSE 250 15,589.95 +1.45%
UK stocks surged to a two-and-a-half-week high on Thursday as investors reacted to the Federal Reserve's move to scale back monetary stimulus, ending months of uncertainty that has plagued financial markets worldwide.
Strong gains from Carnival after its full-year results also helped lift the FTSE 100 in afternoon trade, along with a decent performance by pharmaceutical and life insurance stocks.
Tracking a rally on Wall Street last night, London's benchmark index ended 92.62 points higher at 6,584.7 this afternoon - its best closing level since December 2nd when it finished at 6,595.33.
The Fed announced that it would scale back its monthly bond-buying programme from $85bn to $75bn and said it would make similar moderate reductions in the future subject to incoming economic data.
Policymakers predicted that the jobless rate - currently at 7% - would drop to around 6.5% by the end of 2014. However, they stressed that they would hold interest rates close to zero "well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6.5%, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the [FOMC's] 2% longer-run goal".
"The removal of this festering sore of uncertainty, along with a more nuanced and tweaked tone of forward guidance has helped keep equity markets well underpinned," said Chief Market Analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets.
US markets, however, opened lower today as the initial euphoria surrounding the Fed decision quickly faded in the face of disappointing economic data, which saw jobless claims rise to a nine-month high and existing-home sales drop sharply.
Carnival buoyed by FY results, drugmakers higher
Cruise operator Carnival surged into the top spot on the FTSE 100 risers list this afternoon after it impressed with its final results, as revenues and earnings declines were not as bad as feared thanks to a successful marketing push in the fourth quarter. The firm also made encouraging noises about "momentum" as it enters 2014.
AstraZeneca was higher after spending up to $4.1bn to buy out Bristol-Myers Squibb's stake in their diabetes joint venture, giving the Anglo-Swedish company full ownership of intellectual property and global rights for a large portfolio of products.
Fellow pharma group GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also advanced after US regulators approved Anoro Ellipta, its treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Upside however was limited on the news that Denmark has approved the sale of a generic rival to GSK's biggest product, Advair.
Life insurers were almost universally higher after rating agency Fitch gave an encouraging bill of health on US counterparts for 2014. Aviva, Legal & General, Old Mutual, Prudential and Standard Life were all up before the close.
Precious metal miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources were among the few fallers on the FTSE 100, with the stocks tracking heavy falls in gold and silver prices in afternoon trade.
G4S was in the red after the government referred the security group to the Serious Fraud Office following a review of outsourcing contracts due to suspected over-charging.
Sector peer Serco surged after saying it will pay back £68.5m to the Ministry of Justice for overcharging on its Electronic Monitoring contract, putting an end to months of uncertainty for the company amid an investigation by the government.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Carnival (CCL) 2,312.00p +5.47%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,140.00p +4.68%
William Hill (WMH) 391.20p +4.15%
WPP (WPP) 1,346.00p +3.70%
Standard Life (SL.) 352.70p +3.64%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,316.00p +3.54%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,400.00p +3.05%
Aviva (AV.) 435.90p +2.83%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 1,056.00p +2.82%
Prudential (PRU) 1,306.00p +2.75%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Fresnillo (FRES) 698.00p -3.99%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 3,811.00p -2.68%
G4S (GFS) 248.90p -1.89%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,206.00p -0.19%
Amec (AMEC) 1,040.00p -0.19%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 647.70p -0.09%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Serco Group (SRP) 476.60p +6.19%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 596.50p +5.02%
Synergy Health (SYR) 1,197.00p +5.00%
Homeserve (HSV) 271.70p +4.90%
Henderson Group (HGG) 212.00p +4.64%
National Express Group (NEX) 275.80p +4.51%
Synthomer (SYNT) 251.00p +4.37%
Beazley (BEZ) 260.00p +4.33%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 148.60p +4.06%
Close Brothers Group (CBG) 1,379.00p +3.68%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 40.06p -3.98%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 157.40p -2.24%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 190.60p -2.21%
Britvic (BVIC) 674.00p -2.11%
Perform Group (PER) 225.40p -2.00%
Rank Group (RNK) 129.60p -1.89%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 162.30p -1.76%
RPS Group (RPS) 331.10p -1.58%
Electra Private Equity (ELTA) 2,330.00p -1.10%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,250.00p -1.10%