News that Larry Summers has dropped out of the running for Federal Reserve Chairman gave market sentiment a boost on Monday morning while concerns over Syria eased.
London's FTSE 100 surged to a six-week high of around 6,639 today - the last time the index closed higher was on August 2nd when it ended the day at 6,647.87.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers withdrew from the race to replace Ben Bernanke as Fed Chairman when he steps down in January. The removal of Summers - widely viewed as a hawkish candidate in the running - prompted a positive reaction on markets on Monday on the back of hopes that current Fed Vice Chair and well-known dove Janet Yellen may now be the firm favourite. She is expected to favour a slower reduction of stimulus than Summers.
"Larry Summers was seen as more concerned about the unintended consequences of quantitative easing [QE] than the current Chairman and also the other contender in the race, current Vice-Chair Janet Yellen. So the Fed was seen reducing QE and raising rates earlier with him at the helm," said Chief Economist Simon Smith from FxPro.
Meanwhile, concerns over a potential military attack on Syria receded over the weekend after the US and Russia agreed that Bashar al-Assad's regime must hand over details of its chemical weapons stockpile within a week; the weapons will then be removed and destroyed before mid-2014. West Texas and Brent crude futures were down by 1.2% and 1.5% this morning, respectively.
FOMC in focus
The Federal Open Market Committee's two-day meeting is due to come to a close on Wednesday and will likely be one of the most closely-watched policy decisions in recent years, given rising expectations that the Fed will begin to scale back its quantitative easing (QE) programme.
According to analysts at Barclays Research, the Fed is likely to taper monthly asset purchases from $85bn to $70bn this week. However, they note that the announcement of tapering by $10-15bn in itself is unlikely to move the market.
"We think the key to gauge the market reaction would be: 1) the Fed's updated economic forecasts, especially its forecast for end-2016 to be included for the first time; and 2) the tone in the Chairman Bernanke's press conference regarding the pace/conclusion of tapering," Barclays said.
FTSE 100: Fresnillo drops on Mexican levy concerns
Precious metals miners Fresnillo plummeted this morning on concerns over levies on the mining sector in Mexico. "All of Fresnillo's seven operational mines are in Mexico, leaving it heavily exposed to such an increase in its tax burden," said Financial Sales Trader Max Cohen from Spreadex.
Insurers were performing well this morning with Standard Life, Legal & General and Prudential among the highest risers. The latter was given a lift by Panmure Gordon this morning which raised its target price for the stock, saying that the business is "undervalued".
Barclays meanwhile was boosted by Nomura which upgraded its rating by two notches from 'reduce' to 'buy' saying that the UK banking group is well-positioned for building macroeconomic momentum.
In contrast, plumbers merchant Wolseley was in the red after Credit Suisse downgraded the stock to 'neutral'. The bank said that after three years of having a positive stance on the stock, it is now prudent to take profits with just 8% upside to its 3,700p price target from current levels.
Oil and gas services provider Petrofac was higher on the news that it is to operate and manage two training facilities for Malaysian oil major PETRONAS in a contract worth $120m.
Airlines were providing a lift as falling crude prices eased fears about rising jet fuel costs; easyJet and IAG were in demand.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Antofagasta (ANTO) 876.00p +3.12%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,192.00p +2.76%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 323.10p +2.67%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,542.00p +2.62%
Sage Group (SGE) 359.50p +2.51%
Standard Life (SL.) 350.80p +2.36%
Meggitt (MGGT) 569.00p +2.34%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,330.00p +2.31%
Carnival (CCL) 2,482.00p +2.22%
Prudential (PRU) 1,192.00p +2.14%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,038.00p -13.36%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 215.80p -1.91%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,152.00p -0.86%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,360.00p -0.71%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,349.00p -0.63%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,480.00p -0.53%
Rexam (REX) 500.50p -0.30%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,123.00p -0.18%
WPP (WPP) 1,290.00p -0.15%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 294.90p -0.14%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 980.50p +4.31%
Dialight (DIA) 1,187.00p +4.12%
Xaar (XAR) 792.00p +2.99%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 45.81p +2.94%
Genus (GNS) 1,362.00p +2.87%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 390.20p +2.71%
Bumi (BUMI) 210.10p +2.69%
Victrex (VCT) 1,689.00p +2.49%
WH Smith (SMWH) 856.50p +2.27%
Elementis (ELM) 261.50p +2.27%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 235.20p -14.78%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 145.90p -11.14%
Polymetal International (POLY) 656.00p -7.54%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 290.30p -3.59%
888 Holdings (888) 159.80p -3.15%
Cobham (COB) 293.20p -2.69%
BH Macro Ltd. EUR Shares (BHME) € 20.86 -1.84%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 253.70p -1.48%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,128.00p -1.44%
Devro (DVO) 333.70p -1.27%