1630:Close UK stocks closed on an upbeat note today, having touched the 6,700 point mark earlier in the session as the pharmaceutical sector drove sentiment higher on the back of a mix of major deals and M&A speculation. However, positive sentiment was offset by the latest UK Easter retail numbers, which came in notably worse than even for 2013's cold and wet weekend, with analysts blaming the still-fragile nature of consumer confidence. Over in the US, existing home sales were down by 0.4 per cent month-on-month in March to an annualised pace of 4.59m. The FTSE 100 closed up 56.51 points at 6,681.76.
1500: US existing home sales slipped just ever so slightly, to reach an annualised rate of 4.59m (consensus: 4.55m) in March, in comparison to a reading of 4.6m for the month before. FTSE 100 up 71 to 6,696.
1418: The FTSE 100 has just touched the 6,700 level and is now trading 1.1 per cent higher on the day. It has not closed above this key psychological level since March 7th. US stock futures are pointing to small gains on Wall Street when the opening bell rings at 14:30 with Neflix rising strong in pre-market trade after topping forecasts last night with its first-quarter earnings. Pharma firm Allergan is also a high riser after peer Valeant and activist investor Bill Ackman unveiled a takeover offer for the Botox maker which values it at nearly 46bn dollars.
1330: Three-month copper futures are down by 0.1 per cent to 6,622.5 dollars per metric tonne.
1238: Killik has maintained a 'buy' recommendation on GSK, saying that the company's major three-part transaction with Novartis will accelerate growth, provide cost savings and generate increased returns. 'We believe today's announcement is attractive, and the shares
have responded positively as a result. The transaction will accelerate the group's strategy and substantially strengthens two of its core businesses.' The stock is 5.5 per cent higher at 1,644.34p.
1215: Sterling is little changed on the day, nudging higher in fact, despite all the M&A talks doing the rounds this morning in British equities. GBP/USD is rising by 0.19 per cent to the 1.6824 dollar
1050: Regarding today's reported interest from Pfizer in AZN, analysts at Credit Suisse are highlighting the fact that the UK firm has one of the strongest exposures of the EU majors to increased R&D productivity as the net present value (NPV) of old drugs - of the likes of Nexium, Crestor and Pulmicourt - winds down. "Pipeline NPV accounts for 18 per cent of total NPV versus 10 per cent for EU peers [...] but key replacement assets are still early stage." "AZN currently trades on a 7 per cent discount to peers on 2014 EPS rising to a 40 per cent premium by 2017, and on EV NPV it trades in line with peers," the broker adds.
1046: According to analysts at Citigroup, Pfizer is likely to "push aggressively ahead with a second approach". They also said that the reported offer was "very likely genuine. AstraZeneca (AZN) may seek a merger of equals as a defence strategy against Pfizer or other larger US multinationals," the bank said
1025: Shares of AstraZeneca are backing off now from an earlier rise after having earlier crashed into technical resistance at about 4,138p - the stock's February highs.
0900: UK stocks have started the session sharply higher, following in the wake of overnight gains on Wall Street and after an agreement was reached last Thursday to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. Somewhat ironic then that a fair bit of market commentary has since turned rather more downbeat on the prospects for a quick resolution of the crisis. AstraZeneca shares are jumping higher on the back of speculation that the UK drugs giant may have again attracted the interest of US peer Pfizer. GlaxoSmithKline is also doing well after announcing the sale of its marketed Oncology portfolio to Novartis for an aggregate cash consideration of 16bn dollars. Following that transaction Glaxo will return 4bn dollars to shareholders. FTSE 100 up 69 to 1,628.