FTSE 100 opened slightly lower on Wednesday morning as markets paused for breath to digest recent developments in Syria after the government agreed to hand over its chemical weapons.
London's benchmark index finished Tuesday's session at 6,583.99, its highest closing price since August 14th when it ended the day at 6,587.43. Stocks across Europe were largely flat this morning with the STOXX Europe 600 index more or less unchanged after hitting its highest level since May 22nd yesterday.
Global stocks rose strongly on Tuesday after Syria accepted a Russian proposal to hand over all chemical weapons to international control in an attempt to avoid US military action.
In a nationally televised speech last night, US President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on military intervention in Syria in light of recent diplomatic developments. He said that the Russian initiative "has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force".
"While the practicality of this deal seems somewhat lacking, Syria's tentative agreement none-the-less bought Obama time to regain composure and attempt to rally support for military action should a diplomatic resolution fail to come to fruition," said Financial Sales Trader Alex Conroy from Spreadex.
FTSE 100: Ex-div stocks provide a drag
A number of blue-chip stocks were trading lower this morning after going ex-dividend, meaning that from today investors will not be able to benefit from each companies' latest dividend payments. These included Admiral, G4S, Hargreaves Lansdown, Land Securities and Standard Life.
Costa and Premier Inn owner Whitbread was extending losses after falling sharply on Tuesday as it announced a slowdown in second-quarter growth. Weighing on the stock this morning was a downgrade by JPMorgan Cazenove to 'neutral'. The same bank also cut its rating for BSkyB to 'neutral'.
Home improvement retailer Kingfisher, owner of B&Q and Screwfix, declined after reporting a 1.6% fall in first-half profits as it blamed depressed consumer confidence and cold weather.
Leading the risers was ARM Holdings, the chip designer, which rose strongly in the aftermath of last night's launch by customer Apple of its new iPhone models.
Defensive stocks meanwhile were performing well with utilities National Grid, United Utilities SSE and Severn Trent making gains.
FTSE 250: African Barrick Gold slumps after COO exit
African Barrick Gold was a heavy faller this morning after Chief Operating Officer Marco Zolezzi resigned with immediate effect. Zolezzi, who has been COO since September 2010, is leaving to pursue other interests.
Gold mining peer Polymetal was also lower as gold prices
swung between gains and losses this morning, fluctuating at a three-week low. Goldman Sachs today estimated that bullion prices will decline into 2014 as the Federal Reserve scales back its stimulus programme. It said that the next's policy meeting later this month "could prove the catalyse to push gold prices lower".
FTSE 100 - Risers
ARM Holdings (ARM) 985.00p +4.68%
National Grid (NG.) 745.00p +1.09%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 323.00p +1.00%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 209.85p +0.94%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 822.00p +0.86%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,190.00p +0.85%
SSE (SSE) 1,569.00p +0.77%
Compass Group (CPG) 857.50p +0.70%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 1,663.00p +0.67%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 684.00p +0.59%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,227.00p -4.14%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,189.00p -2.94%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,016.00p -2.31%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 76.36p -2.10%
Kingfisher (KGF) 411.90p -1.93%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 836.50p -1.82%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,083.00p -1.75%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,609.00p -1.71%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 350.50p -1.54%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,160.00p -1.53%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 1,920.00p +3.73%
UBM (UBM) 749.00p +2.96%
Premier Farnell (PFL) 233.80p +2.36%
Carillion (CLLN) 317.80p +2.09%
Informa (INF) 542.00p +1.98%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 307.70p +1.89%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 371.40p +1.75%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 494.20p +1.62%
Inchcape (INCH) 637.50p +1.43%
Laird (LRD) 238.00p +1.41%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 155.90p -6.31%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 27.65p -4.52%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 322.20p -3.04%
International Public Partnerships Ltd. (INPP) 124.00p -2.67%
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 121.40p -2.25%
Polymetal International (POLY) 742.00p -1.85%
Temple Bar Inv Trust (TMPL) 1,200.00p -1.72%
JPMorgan Indian Inv Trust (JII) 322.30p -1.44%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 306.50p -1.42%
F&C Commercial Property Trust Ltd. (FCPT) 115.60p -1.37%