Markets were rangebound on Wednesday morning as investors showed nervousness ahead of the all-important Federal Reserve policy decision later this evening.
UK stocks were registering moderating gains by midday but just 19 points separated the FTSE 100's intraday low (6,568) and high (6,587) as traders refrained from building positions ahead of the main 'risk event' of the day.
Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital said that "market participants do not have all their chips on the table today, grinding out the day cautiously before we hear from the Fed".
"Most expect the central bank to initiate the first round of tapering today, despite the fact that momentum in the US labour market is evidently slower than the Fed hoped. We could see the Fed stand pat for that reason but many are of the view that the taper genie is out of the bottle."
MPC vote unanimous
The minutes of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting showed that policymakers voted unanimously to leave interest rates and stimulus unchanged, as expected.
The unanimous vote suggests that MPC members were content with how the economic recovery is going, given that two voters had previously been in favour of an expansion of quantitative easing (QE) at the August meeting.
Vicky Redwood, Chief UK Economist at Capital Economics said: "No-one thought that any of the 'knockouts' that would invalidate the recent forward guidance had been breached. But equally, those who previously thought that more stimulus might be needed have backed away from that view and the vote to leave QE on hold was 9-0."
Markets await FOMC decision
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) comes to a close later this evening and will be one of the most closely-watched US policy decisions in recent years, given rising expectations that policymakers will begin to scale back quantitative easing.
The Fed is widely expected to start by tapering its monthly asset purchases by around $10-15bn from the current level of $85bn, with forecasts being pared slightly over the last month given recent mixed economic data as of late, including August's disappointing jobs report.
"A reduction around these levels has to some degree been priced in already whilst for long-term investors, it's irrelevant whether the taper comes in September or later since it's definitely coming by year's end," said Max Cohen, a Financial Sales Trader from Spreadex.
"Having said that, any delay in tapering could see stocks start to sell off with traders possibly fearing that the strength of the economy has not convinced policymakers. It is expected that a larger than forecast taper will also trigger a slide in shares."
Just as important will be the new set of macroeconomic projections which the monetary authority will provide. These may help to cement expectations that policy rates are to stay low for quite some time yet.
FTSE 100: Smiths Group impresses with special divi
Engineering firm Smiths Group was a high riser after raising its full-year dividend by 4% and returning £118m to shareholders by way of a special dividend as annual results came in slightly ahead of analysts' estimates.
Banking group Lloyds was among the best performers this morning. The stock was recovering after sinking sharply yesterday following the news that the government placed a 6% stake as it formally began the process of disposing its stake following the state bailout in 2008.
Sector peer Barclays was trading without the right to buy shares
in its £5.95bn rights issue. Shares were still trading above their theoretical ex-rights price (TERP) of 276.2p. Standard Chartered and HSBC were also higher.
Antofagasta, Melrose and Petrofac were all trading lower this morning after going ex-dividend, meaning that from today investors won't be able to get their hands on the companies' latest payouts.
Security solutions group G4S was in the red after Jefferies International trimmed its target price for the stock from 310p to 290p. While the broker maintained its 'buy' rating, it said: "The G4S equity recovery story is not as financially or operationally geared as we would like."
FTSE 250: Redrow jumps after strong full-year figures
British housebuilder Redrow revealed a stellar set of full-year results, after progress across the group, as it recommended the return of a final dividend. The FTSE 250-listed group said pre-tax profit surged 63% to £70m for the year to June 30th and adjusted earnings per share jumped 45% to 15.7p.
IG Group, Dunelm, Kier, Renishaw, Interserve, Computacenter and Ladbrokes were among the worst performers after going ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,422.00p +3.34%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 75.98p +1.78%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,520.00p +1.77%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 964.00p +1.10%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 700.30p +1.07%
Pearson (PSON) 1,290.00p +1.02%
Tesco (TSCO) 375.10p +1.00%
Croda International (CRDA) 2,686.00p +0.94%
Barclays (BARC) 278.80p +0.94%
CRH (CRH) 1,487.00p +0.75%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 362.90p -4.63%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 858.00p -2.72%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,014.00p -2.59%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,851.00p -2.06%
G4S (GFS) 253.60p -1.63%
Serco Group (SRP) 562.50p -1.32%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,490.00p -1.21%
GKN (GKN) 350.10p -1.19%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 910.00p -1.14%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,134.00p -1.05%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Redrow (RDW) 240.00p +3.99%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 400.10p +3.38%
Bumi (BUMI) 219.10p +3.11%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 749.00p +2.53%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,915.00p +2.35%
Synthomer (SYNT) 241.50p +2.33%
United Drug (UDG) 336.50p +2.28%
Regus (RGU) 184.50p +2.10%
Carillion (CLLN) 327.10p +2.00%
Halfords Group (HFD) 401.70p +1.93%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Salamander Energy (SMDR) 121.80p -5.29%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 136.60p -3.87%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 223.20p -2.75%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 144.00p -2.70%
Fenner (FENR) 394.70p -2.54%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 196.40p -2.39%
Supergroup (SGP) 1,167.00p -2.34%
National Express Group (NEX) 267.80p -2.33%
IG Group Holdings (IGG) 590.50p -2.32%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 326.00p -2.31%