The FTSE 100 came close to a one-month high on Friday morning on hopes that the political uncertainty in Washington may prompt the Federal Reserve to continue with its stimulus measures for a little longer.
Also helping sentiment this morning was Chinese gross domestic product which grew at a year-on-year rate of 7.8% in the third quarter, rebounding after the 7.5% growth seen in the second quarter. This was in line with consensus estimates, though a slowdown in growth of industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment in September could mean that there will be some weakness in upcoming quarters, analysts warned.
London's benchmark index was trading near 6,600 in morning trading today; it has not closed above this mark since September 19th when it ended at 6,625.39.
As the dust begins to settle following the last-minute deal on Wednesday to extend the debt ceiling and reopen the US government, markets are hoping that the Fed could delay tapering stimulus until early 2014, given that the shutdown is likely to have dampened growth in the fourth quarter.
Such hopes boosted the S&P 500
to its highest ever close of 1,733.15 on Thursday night. US stock futures were pointing to even more gains when Wall Street opens later on today.
Markets are looking ahead to the delayed release of the September US employment report next Tuesday, which will be key factor in the Fed's next move. Chief Analyst Allan von Mehren from Danske Bank said that the central bank will likely begin to taper at its meeting at the end of January.
"The Fed likely needs to see the recovery on a stronger footing before it will start to taper. Hence hard data on private consumption, capex and job growth should improve in order for the Fed to move," he said.
Prudential gains on readacross from AIA
Life insurance and giant Prudential was a high riser on Friday after Asian peer AIA reported record quarterly results with new business up 26%. "The insurance sector was also helped by reports that an EU capital requirement could be eased compared to the initial version sought by regulators," said Financial Sales Trader Max Cohen from Spreadex.
Heading the other way was William Hill after JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded the stocks from 'overweight' to 'underweight', saying that the bookmaker will face challenges after its profit warning in the third quarter.
Diversified mining group Anglo American was lower this after reporting a 24% fall in iron-ore production in the third quarter and an 8% decline in manganese, which together account for one half of group profits. Goldman Sachs was also weighing on the share price this morning after cutting its target for iron ore.
Barclays was in the red on reports that it is facing new allegations about LIBOR-rigging. Meanwhile, banking peer RBS was weighed down by comments from Investec which recommended investors not to own the stock ahead of its third-quarter results on November 1st.
United Utilities advanced this morning after Credit Suisse upgraded its rating for the stock from 'underperform' to 'neutral', saying it only offers 2% total return downside to its target price. However the bank named SSE as its top pick in the sector, keeping an 'outperform' rating.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Prudential (PRU) 1,252.00p +3.13%
Fresnillo (FRES) 974.50p +2.31%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,207.00p +2.29%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,444.00p +2.02%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,336.00p +1.89%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,826.00p +1.50%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,239.00p +1.47%
SSE (SSE) 1,453.00p +1.47%
Hammerson (HMSO) 530.00p +1.44%
Diageo (DGE) 1,980.00p +1.33%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
William Hill (WMH) 400.30p -3.96%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 370.00p -1.83%
Barclays (BARC) 273.65p -1.67%
CRH (CRH) 1,516.00p -1.49%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,530.50p -1.45%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 928.50p -1.22%
BG Group (BG.) 1,211.50p -0.74%
BAE Systems (BA.) 442.30p -0.65%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,090.00p -0.64%
ITV (ITV) 193.90p -0.62%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 51.00p +6.25%
Polymetal International (POLY) 594.00p +4.21%
Regus (RGU) 208.00p +3.90%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,117.00p +3.43%
Hunting (HTG) 837.00p +3.27%
Telecity Group (TCY) 819.50p +2.89%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,625.00p +2.85%
De La Rue (DLAR) 972.50p +2.48%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 886.00p +2.43%
Mitie Group (MTO) 305.00p +2.35%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Computacenter (CCC) 548.00p -3.61%
Kentz Corporation Ltd. (KENZ) 526.00p -2.05%
NMC Health (NMC) 333.30p -1.54%
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (UDG) 319.50p -1.51%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 123.30p -1.44%
Interserve (IRV) 601.00p -1.39%
Diploma (DPLM) 654.00p -1.21%
Oxford Instruments (OXIG) 1,301.00p -0.91%
Perform Group (PER) 555.00p -0.89%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 396.50p -0.88%