After a strong start for UK stocks, the FTSE 100 pared gains by lunchtime as nervousness set in ahead of a number of risk events that have the potential to spark some volatile moves on financial markets.
Risk appetite was also scaled back ahead of the G20 meeting which begins in St Petersburg today, where a potential US military strike in Syria is expected to be the hot topic amongst world leaders. Michael Hewson, Senior Market Analyst at CMC Markets, said: "while there may not be much in the way of fireworks we could well see a lot of tension, given the opposing views of the US and Russia, over the rationale for any type of intervention."
The Bank of England decided to keep monetary policy on hold today, as expected, leaving the Bank Rate at 0.5% and the asset purchase programme at £375bn. There was no accompanying statement with the decision at midday, following last month's 'forward guidance' comments from the Monetary Policy Committee alongside last month's meeting.
For Kathleen Brooks, Research Director at Forex.com, the Bank missed a trick by not releasing a statement. "Is saying nothing better than saying something? Not really, since this further push higher in market rates will make it harder for the BOE to keep rates contained or push them lower down the line," she believes.
The European Central Bank will now be in focus ahead of its policy meeting this afternoon, though no change is also expected. However, the subsequent press conference with central-bank President Mario Draghi will be closely watched. Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari said that markets tend to interpret Draghi's words "in whatever way suits them, which can create large amounts of volatility".
Overnight, the Bank of Japan unanimously voted to keep monetary policy unchanged as it maintained its current stimulus measures. However, it did upgrade its assessment of the economy, saying that Japan is "recovering moderately" and that exports have picked up.
The Federal Reserve's September Beige Book gave stocks on Wall Street a boost last night after it found that economic activity grew at a "modest to moderate" pace between July and August. Investors are now looking ahead to the all-important US jobs report on Friday which will be a large factor in the Fed's decision on whether or not to adjust current stimulus measures later this month.
Ahead of that though, markets will have a barrage of other US economic data to digest today, including ADP employment figures, jobless claims, factory orders and the ISM non-manufacturing index.
FTSE 100: M&S and IHG jump after upgrades
High Street department store Marks & Spencer surged today after HSBC upgraded the stock from 'neutral' to 'overweight', saying it is the most operationally geared among its peers to play on the UK consumer recovery.
Hotels group IHG was also a high riser after UBS raised its rating from 'neutral to 'buy' and added the stock to its 'Most Preferred' list. The Swiss bank highlighted alleviated concerns about pipeline after the company added more rooms in the first half. It also pointed to improving growth in China and continued strength in the US.
easyJet, which suffered from negative readacross after Ryanair's profit warning yesterday, was rebounding this morning after reporting rising passenger numbers and an increased load factor for August.
Banks were also performing well this morning with Standard Chartered, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Barclays all registering decent gains.
Meanwhile, food groups Tate & Lyle and AB Foods were lower after Credit Suisse highlighted concerns about sugar prices falling sooner and more steeply than expected.
Oil peers BP and Shell were down after a cautious research report from Nomura which maintained its 'neutral' stance on European 'Big Oil' stocks. The broker said: "Recent market optimism on the outlook for European Big Oil is premature, in our opinion. Visibility is improving but a transition to long-life assets and a more unconventional asset base will cost more and take longer than consensus expects."
BG Group however was in positive territory after Nomura reiterated its 'buy' rating, saying it offers "differentiated growth" from others in the Big Oil sector.
Pharmaceuticals group GlaxoSmithKline was in the red after announcing a setback on its potential new skin-cancer treatment.
FTSE 250: Retail peers Dixons and SuperGroup jump
Electronics retailer Dixons jumped this morning after saying that underlying group sales rose 4% in the first quarter. It also said it had received an offer for its problematic PIXmania arm and announced the disposal of EletroWorld Turkey.
Fashion group SuperGroup also rose strongly after reporting that quarterly sales soared by nearly 26% following strong demand across the group, in particular womenswear.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 494.00p +3.20%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 74.76p +2.93%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,141.00p +2.70%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,879.00p +2.34%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,571.00p +2.15%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 297.10p +2.10%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 892.50p +2.00%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,141.00p +1.97%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,463.00p +1.92%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 210.95p +1.91%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 795.50p -2.09%
Croda International (CRDA) 2,596.00p -1.67%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,645.50p -1.23%
G4S (GFS) 253.20p -1.09%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 877.50p -0.96%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 1,829.00p -0.65%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 764.50p -0.65%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,688.00p -0.59%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,150.00p -0.58%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,063.50p -0.58%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 47.30p +6.87%
ICAP (IAP) 397.60p +6.05%
Supergroup (SGP) 1,222.00p +5.44%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 108.10p +4.55%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 150.90p +3.93%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 1,015.00p +3.73%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 274.00p +3.67%
Halfords Group (HFD) 379.50p +3.60%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 47.41p +3.27%
Evraz (EVR) 132.30p +2.72%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
NMC Health (NMC) 315.30p -4.13%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 141.70p -2.88%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,113.00p -2.09%
Dairy Crest Group (DCG) 494.00p -1.50%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 419.70p -1.43%
Countrywide (CWD) 557.50p -1.33%
Man Group (EMG) 84.25p -1.29%
Rank Group (RNK) 155.00p -1.27%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 172.20p -1.20%
Fenner (FENR) 362.00p -1.09%