The FTSE 100 had pulled into positive territory by Wednesday lunchtime, extending its recent winning streak into its sixth day, but the mood was cautious ahead of the conclusion of the Federal Reserve policy meeting later today.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting is widely expected to culminate with the announcement of a new long-term bond purchase programme valued at $45bn per month as 'Operation Twist' comes to an end.
Some 48 out of 49 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg are expecting new stimulus on top of the $40bn monthly mortgage-bond buying programme announced in September, commonly referred to as QE3 (third round of quantitative easing).
Optimism over the 'fiscal cliff' has increased slightly over the last few days following meetings between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.
"Very few details have been released in relation to the talks but it looks like the main sticking point at the moment centre's around cuts to entitlements. I expect negotiations to continue over the next couple of weeks with very gradual progress, which will be reflected in the markets with small but consistent gains," said market analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.
The blue-chip index closed yesterday's session at 5,925, following five days of straight gains. The last time London's benchmark closed higher was on March 19th when it finished at 5,961.
Helping provide a lift to sentiment this morning was positive employment data in the UK. Jobless claims dropped by 3,000 in November, better than the 6,000 increase expected.
Meanwhile, Greece's Ministry of Finance this morning confirmed details on the results of its sovereign debt buyback. The final amount of the aggregate principal that has accepted the deal is €31.9bn, above the initial €30bn target amount. However, there are concerns that Athens could still fall short of reaching its debt reduction goal agreed with the IMF.
FTSE 100: Miners pull the Footsie higher
Mining stocks were in demand this morning as metal prices rose, with Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Randgold and EVRAZ on the up. Anglo was given a lift by Barclays Capital which upped its recommendation for the shares
to 'equal weight', while BHP rose after selling its "non-strategic" interests in the East and West Browse Joint Ventures (JV), offshore Western Australia, for $1.63bn.
Oil explorer Tullow was rebounding after having fallen 18% over the last two weeks on the back of drilling disappointments. Investors were shrugging off a downgrade from Credit Suisse this morning from 'outperform' to 'neutral'.
Costa and Premier Inn owner Whitbread was in the red, pulling back after its strong rise yesterday on the back of an in-line third-quarter trading update, in which it revealed that total sales were up 14.4% year-on-year.
Standard Life was higher after the insurance group said it had earned £140m from the recent sales of offices in Canada as it attempts to cut its exposure to property as an asset class.
Drinks giant Diageo fell after both Nomura and Barclays Capital reduced their target prices for the stock following yesterday's news that it has terminated talks with tequila giant Jose Cuervo.
Engineering group Babcock was lower after going ex-dividend.
FTSE 250: SuperGroup drops as profits fall
Trendy fashion retailer SuperGroup was a heavy faller on the second-tier index after revealing a 31.5% fall in first-half reported profit before tax (PBT). On an underlying basis though, PBT was up 13.1%. Rik Thakrar, the risk manager and senior dealer at Spread Co, said this morning: "Spread Co clients have approached retail stocks with caution, and Supergroup is no exception in this regard, with a clear 'sell into strength' the apparent strategy of choice for this stock."
Communications and embedded processor technology company Imagination Technologies Group fell after adjusted operating profits of £16.7m in the first half missed the consensus estimate of £18.8m.
Aerospace engineer Senior gained after saying that positive trading reported in October has continued, with adjusted pre-tax profit in line with expectations in both October and November.
Support services company Carillion edged higher after being selected for a series of highways maintenance contracts in Canada that are collectively worth £525m.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 259.20p +2.73%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,868.50p +1.94%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 173.50p +1.64%
Serco Group (SRP) 549.50p +1.57%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,874.00p +1.57%
Kingfisher (KGF) 275.90p +1.51%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,131.00p +1.44%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,130.00p +1.25%
Next (NXT) 3,753.00p +1.16%
Barclays (BARC) 251.65p +1.08%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Whitbread (WTB) 2,453.00p -1.41%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 3,073.00p -0.93%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 703.50p -0.92%
Meggitt (MGGT) 385.60p -0.80%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 268.00p -0.74%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 982.00p -0.71%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,440.00p -0.69%
Experian (EXPN) 1,021.00p -0.68%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,101.00p -0.63%
Reed Elsevier (REL) 642.50p -0.62%
FTSE 250 - Risers
New World Resources A Shares (NWR) 263.30p +7.47%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,901.00p +3.09%
Senior (SNR) 208.00p +3.02%
NMC Health (NMC) 179.80p +2.86%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 321.60p +2.68%
Telecity Group (TCY) 853.00p +2.59%
Regus (RGU) 100.20p +2.51%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 534.00p +2.30%
Ruspetro (RPO) 85.05p +2.16%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 130.60p +2.03%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Supergroup (SGP) 560.50p -6.04%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 429.90p -4.13%
Marston's (MARS) 121.00p -3.20%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 501.00p -2.91%
3i Infrastructure (3IN) 123.20p -2.45%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 726.00p -1.63%
Bellway (BWY) 995.50p -1.63%
Mitie Group (MTO) 267.30p -1.62%
Bumi (BUMI) 280.00p -1.62%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 27.61p -1.60%