- Markets subdued after yesterday's 2.2 per cent jump
- Concerns over US economy weigh on sentiment
- Next cheers investors with festive update
The FTSE 100 was broadly flat by Thursday lunchtime as stocks held on to yesterday's impressive 2.2 per cent surge on the back of the US fiscal cliff deal between Democrats and Republicans.
Stock markets across the globe rallied strongly on Wednesday after US politicians decided to allow some tax increases on America's wealthiest workers and delay specifics on spending cuts by two months.
However, the mood on the markets today is cautious - just 12 points were separating the Footsie's intraday low and high (compared with yesterday's 130-point jump) - as investors digested the agreement and what it means for the US economy in the coming months.
"The feeling of euphoria surrounding the adoption of a new piece of legislation to combat the so-called fiscal cliff has lasted just one day as the markets awoke to the continued fragility of the US economy following on with the inability to address all the necessary issues," said research analyst Joshua Mahony.
"The central question in the mind of traders is whether the proposed bill is simply set to kick the proverbial can down the road owing to the unwillingness to introduce measures that cover either the spending cuts or the impending debt ceiling," he said.
Credit ratings agency Moody's has said that Congress needs to do more to tackle its financing problems, saying that its current 'triple-A' rating remains at risk. Nevertheless, rival agency S&P said that its outlook for the nation remains unchanged and the risk of recession has fallen.
Economic news comes in mixedProviding some support to stocks early on was the China non-manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) which rose from 55.6 to 56.1 in December, "providing yet more evidence that the turnaround of the Chinese economy is gaining pace with stronger economic growth likely in the months ahead," according to Markus Huber, the head of German HNW trading at ETX Capital.
However, sentiment was dampened slightly after Markit's construction PMI for the UK dropped from 49.3 to 48.7 in December, missing forecasts for a slight rise to 49.5.
FTSE 100: Next on shopping lists
High Street giant Next jumped after saying in a Christmas trading statement that its full-year results would come in towards the top of expectations. The company said although 2012 sales had been in line with forecasts, cost control measures, markdowns and gross margins had all been slightly better than expected.
Panmure Gordon hiked its profit forecasts and target price for the stock this morning, while Prime Markets told clients in an email that it sees "little on the horizon to stand in the way of the Next retailing juggernaut".
Contract caterer Compass Group was heading the other way after Espirito Santo downgraded its rating for the stock to 'neutral'. Meanwhile, outsourcing firm Serco edged higher after the same broker lifted its rating to 'buy'.
Building materials group CRH fell after announcing that full-year development activity in 2012 totalled over €0.6bn, helped by 18 acquisition and investment initiatives undertaken in the second half.
Experian was on the up after the Financial Times reported that Bank of America is ramping up mortgage and corporate lending. Seymour Pierce upgraded its rating for Experian this morning from 'reduce' to 'add', saying that the article suggests a "return to health" in the US mortgage market which is beneficial to the business.
FTSE 250: Chemring gains after FD appointment
Defence contractor Chemring Group has appointed Steve Bowers as Group Finance Director, causing shares
to rise strongly. Analysts at Investec reiterated their 'buy' rating for the shares, saying: "We regard Steve highly and the market should welcome a further strengthening of the executive team charged with steering the group after a difficult year."
Infrastructure company Balfour Beatty rose after purchasing Subsurface Group to expand the Energy Storage Services business of it subsidiary, Parson Brinckerhoff, in the US.
John Menzies, the aviation and distribution group, was flat despite saying that full-year results will be in line with expectations in 2012 after "continued progress" in the fourth quarter.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Next (NXT) 3,854.00p +2.17%
Serco Group (SRP) 550.50p +1.66%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 381.10p +1.49%
Standard Life (SL.) 346.70p +1.14%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 150.00p +0.94%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 386.00p +0.86%
Experian (EXPN) 1,020.00p +0.79%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,196.00p +0.76%
Schroders (SDR) 1,772.00p +0.74%
Tesco (TSCO) 345.25p +0.73%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
CRH (CRH) 1,261.00p -1.71%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 6,150.00p -1.52%
Centrica (CNA) 336.00p -1.41%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,641.00p -1.35%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,248.00p -1.34%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 3,178.00p -1.27%
Croda International (CRDA) 2,358.00p -1.26%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,207.00p -1.23%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,364.00p -1.23%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,360.00p -1.17%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 431.60p +5.78%
Chemring Group (CHG) 250.70p +5.20%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 34.40p +4.24%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 104.00p +2.67%
Debenhams (DEB) 117.80p +2.35%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 392.10p +2.24%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 86.50p +2.06%
IG Group Holdings (IGG) 468.20p +1.89%
Man Group (EMG) 85.80p +1.78%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 2,365.00p +1.76%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
New World Resources A Shares (NWR) 303.30p -5.07%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 3,039.00p -2.75%
Premier Farnell (PFL) 192.90p -2.33%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 172.30p -2.32%
WH Smith (SMWH) 641.00p -1.91%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 38.60p -1.78%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 451.10p -1.61%
Elementis (ELM) 232.50p -1.57%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 28.90p -1.40%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 439.50p -1.28%