Stocks were trading broadly flat by Friday lunchtime as markets paused for breath in the aftermath of the Federal Reserve's surprise decision not to taper quantitative easing, though upside was limited ahead of the German elections this weekend.
After a weak start, the FTSE 100 was more or less unchanged at Thursday's close of 6,625.39 following a 1% jump the day before as investors celebrated the continuation of Fed stimulus on Wednesday evening.
Shavaz Dhalla, a Financial Trader from Spreadex, said it has been a very optimistic week for equities, especially given the withdrawal by well-known hawk Larry Summers from the race to become Fed Chairman.
"Furthermore, since the Fed also failed to provide a specific calendar for [asset-purchase] reductions, investors can bask in the knowledge that the lifeline supporting global markets will continue for a bit longer," Dhalla said.
A speech in New York by Kansas City Fed President Esther George will be closely watched today as she was one of the few policymakers to back a tapering of the Fed's stimulus. George had suggested the central bank reduce its $85bn per month in asset purchases by $15bn to $70bn ahead of this week's policy meeting.
Also on investors' minds today will be the looming elections in Germany this weekend, with the outcome still highly uncertain given that a rising euro-sceptic movement across the country could complicate things for Angela Merkel's CDU party.
Matt Basi, Head of UK Sales Trading at CMC Markets, said there is a "very real danger of the whole thing descending into an Italian-style farce" given Merkel's inability to command an overall majority.
"When you consider the lengths that Germany has gone to in support of the wider European economy and the relative strength of the nations they are propping up, the fact that Merkel has avoided full-on civil war is nothing short of a miracle in my book," he said.
The Fed wasn't the only central bank to surprise markets this week as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced a 25 basis-point rise in its main policy rate overnight, to 7.5% from 7.25%, in an attempt to curb inflation.
FTSE 100: Tate & Lyle hit by Credit Suisse downgrade
Shares in food and sweeteners manufacturer Tate & Lyle were falling heavily this morning after the stock's rating was cut by Credit Suisse from 'outperform' to 'neutral'. The bank said: "The long-running forward price-to-earnings multiple is 12 versus 13.5 today. That looks right to us."
United Utilities was also being dragged down after Beaufort Securities lowered its recommendation to 'hold'.
Heading the other way was supermarket chain Sainsbury after Citigroup upgraded the group to 'neutral' ahead of its second-quarter trading update in a couple of weeks. The bank said it expects a "big improvement" in like-for-like sales trends from the first quarter.
Falling metal prices were weighing on mining stocks this morning with Fresnillo, Randgold, Vedanta, Antofagasta, Anglo American and ENRC falling sharply as gold, silver and copper values took a hit.
Banking stocks were also out of favour with domestic lenders RBS, Lloyds and Barclays among the worst performers. RBS, which announced this morning the sale of a further 20% stake in Direct Line Insurance, was being weighed down by comments by Investec which said that the third-quarter trading statement on November 1st "may (once again) prove to be a poor time to own the shares!"
BP was making gains this morning on market chatter that US oil major Exxon could be interested in making a bid for its smaller rival. One analyst however suggested that these rumours should be taken "with a pinch of salt" perhaps as a result of light news flow on Friday.
FTSE 250: ICAP lower after downgrade
Interdealer broker ICAP was trading lower this morning after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to 'neutral'. The group was also making the news on reports that it could soon agree a settlement with regulators over the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal.
Insurance firm Jardine Lloyd Thompson, meanwhile, was in demand after buying Towers Watson's reinsurance brokerage business for $250m.
FTSE 100 - Risers
GKN (GKN) 363.00p +2.05%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,591.00p +1.93%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 398.40p +1.89%
Standard Life (SL.) 352.40p +1.64%
William Hill (WMH) 425.90p +1.60%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,371.00p +1.48%
BP (BP.) 446.20p +1.39%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,125.00p +1.26%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,885.00p +1.16%
Pearson (PSON) 1,300.00p +1.09%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,709.00p -2.73%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,136.00p -2.66%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,041.00p -2.62%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,598.00p -2.26%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 767.00p -2.17%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 867.00p -2.14%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 364.60p -1.19%
Barclays (BARC) 275.10p -1.15%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,390.00p -1.14%
Old Mutual (OML) 193.40p -1.12%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT) 949.00p +3.72%
Spectris (SXS) 2,278.00p +2.57%
Halfords Group (HFD) 405.40p +2.45%
Countrywide (CWD) 571.50p +2.42%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,135.00p +2.07%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 118.30p +2.07%
Bumi (BUMI) 218.90p +2.05%
Aveva Group (AVV) 2,661.00p +1.76%
BH Global Ltd. USD Shares (BHGU) 11.8 +1.72%
LondonMetric Property (LMP) 117.60p +1.55%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 266.60p -3.34%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 555.00p -3.31%
Premier Farnell (PFL) 221.00p -3.11%
ITE Group (ITE) 269.00p -2.99%
ICAP (IAP) 397.50p -2.98%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,082.00p -2.79%
Berendsen (BRSN) 890.00p -2.57%
Polymetal International (POLY) 687.50p -2.55%
Lonmin (LMI) 339.60p -2.50%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 207.50p -2.49%