The FTSE 100 was registering decent gains on Thursday morning as markets rebounded from recent falls, helped by M&A activity surrounding one of the index's largest constituents, Vodafone, as well as some well-received results from blue chips Melrose and WPP.
Markets have been hit this week by concerns about a potential Western military intervention in Syria in response to last week's alleged chemical weapons attack that killed over a thousand civilians.
While the government has denied responsibility, leaders in the US and UK have agreed that they must be held accountable. The world is now waiting for a UN report due out later this week of the findings from its chemical weapons inspection team, currently in Damascus.
President Barack Obama said last night on PBS NewsHour that he has not yet decided on a course of action to take but assured that the US won't get drawn into the Syrian civil war. "We can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about," he said.
However, he did say that a retaliation for using chemical weapons would send a "pretty strong signal" to Bashar Assad's regime.
The threat from disruptions to oil supplies in the Middle East (in the event of action against Syria) had sparked a surge in crude prices - West Texas futures jumped to its highest level in over two years yesterday - which risks eroding growth prospects for the global economy. Oil prices however pulled back this morning, easing the downward pressure on stocks.
"We were always likely to see a correction of some kind towards the end of the week, following such an aggressive sell-off in response to the Syria conflict. This has been helped though by reports today that UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is facing strong opposition to any military action against Syria, unless they get proof that chemical weapons have been used by the Assad regime," said Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.
"This at the very least is likely to cause a delay in any decision being made, which should provide some relief in the markets. That said, any delay in the decision is only likely to be temporary, and therefore the same is true of the relief rally that we're seeing today."
FTSE 100: Vodafone surges as talks resume with Verizon
Telecoms group Vodafone, one of the biggest companies in terms of market capitalisation on the FTSE 100, was a high riser this morning after confirming that it has restarted talks with partner Verizon about the possibility of selling its 45% stake in their US joint venture, Verizon Wireless.
"Talk between the two parties have cooled off in recent months but now it seems talks have reached a more serious level. The deal will likely cost Verizon well over $100bn who are apparently in discussions with banks to get the finances to make the deal," said Financial Trader Lee Mumford from Spreadex.
Engineering investment firm Melrose Industries saw revenues top the £1bn mark in the first half as results were boosted by Elster - the gas, electricity and water measurement business it acquired last year. Shares rose strongly early on.
Advertising and media giant WPP was also making decent gains after revealing a 19% increase in half year pre-tax profit as slowing growth rates among emerging markets were eclipsed by a strong performance among mature markets like North America and the UK.
Airline peers IAG and easyJet were also higher this morning, rebounding as oil prices
edged lower. The recent surge in crude has sparked worries over rising jet fuel costs for the travel industry.
Leading the downside was outsourcing group Serco after it was revealed that it is under investigation by the City of London police in regards to a "misreporting of data" by a number of employees. Serco said it will forgo any past and future profits on the £285m contract. Investors were largely ignoring a strong first-half report by the company this morning which showed a 10.5% rise in first-half adjusted profits.
Insurance firm Admiral was also lower after its first-half results as markets were underwhelmed by a 6% rise in profits and an 8% increase in the interim dividend.
Education and publishing group Pearson was hit by a downgrade by Deutsche Bank this morning to 'sell' on the back of its exposure to a rapidly changing industry in the face of improving technology. In contrast, building materials firm Travis Perkins was higher after Citigroup upgraded it to 'buy', saying it is a good way to play the improving performance of the UK housing market.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Vodafone Group (VOD) 204.10p +7.82%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 295.40p +3.87%
WPP (WPP) 1,219.00p +3.48%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,415.00p +2.91%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,147.00p +2.51%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,238.00p +2.15%
GKN (GKN) 330.20p +1.88%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 292.30p +1.85%
BT Group (BT.A) 328.70p +1.76%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,111.00p +1.74%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Serco Group (SRP) 522.00p -13.93%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,050.00p -2.79%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,259.00p -2.40%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,259.00p -2.25%
Pearson (PSON) 1,293.00p -1.75%
Amec (AMEC) 1,045.00p -1.60%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 861.00p -1.54%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,191.00p -1.49%
BG Group (BG.) 1,249.50p -1.42%
G4S (GFS) 249.00p -1.35%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 133.00p +6.66%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 139.70p +5.35%
Salamander Energy (SMDR) 126.40p +5.33%
Stagecoach Group (SGC) 320.20p +4.16%
Pace (PIC) 285.20p +3.60%
Greene King (GNK) 831.00p +3.36%
Anite (AIE) 114.50p +3.06%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 425.00p +2.63%
Soco International (SIA) 396.00p +2.59%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 41.94p +2.49%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 39.33p -4.14%
Hunting (HTG) 835.50p -3.74%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 228.00p -2.98%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 167.50p -2.90%
Xaar (XAR) 845.00p -2.82%
Diploma (DPLM) 606.00p -2.81%
Alent (ALNT) 354.90p -2.45%
Lonmin (LMI) 342.40p -2.20%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 303.30p -1.75%
Interserve (IRV) 558.00p -1.67%