1630:Close Some equity strategists may be a bit wary in the very short-term and the Footsie may indeed have become slightly 'overbought,' but at least for now it is managing to continue to trudge forward each day. That ahead of today's vote on the debt ceiling in the US Senate. Back home the Prime Minister's speech this morning managed to pretty much steal the show, after he promised a referendum on UK membership of the European Union in the next parliament. Of great importance, although perhaps somewhat under appreciated, the latest figures on the UK labour market managed to once again surprise favourably. Higher firm-specific skills has been the explanation put forward by some commentators (not to mention lower real incomes). Oil stocks were in favour. Tullow bounced from technical support to lead gains on the benchmark while Afren was at the head of the pack in the FTSE 350, spiking higher alongside an enormous rise in trading volumes and joining a growing group of stocks which have been probing key technical resistance levels of late. FTSE 100 up 18 to 6,120 on above average volumes.
1611: Analysts at JP Morgan have lowered their view on shares
of Bovis Homes, Barratt Developments and Redrow to underweight. More specifically, and in their own words, "the sector now trades on 1.1 times price/tangible net asset value (NAV) at just an 8% discount to long-run average multiples, despite continuing to generate low returns. While lead indicators are showing some steady signs of improvement, these are yet to be reflected in market data, and we have little visibility over when and to what extent they will be."
1607: US House of Representatives approves procedural rule on debt bill by 234 votes in favour versus 190 against, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
1438: SSE is among the worst performers now on the FTSE 100 following the announcement that its CEO Ian Marchant has decided to call it quits after 10 years in the job. He will be replaced by current Deputy-CEO Alistair Philips-Davies. Shares are now trading around 54p lower (-3.8 per cent), though 25.2p of this fall is due to the stock going ex-dividend today. Analyst Angelos Anastasiou from Seymour Pierce said today that this market reaction was 'unnecessary', saying: 'though Ian Marchant has generally performed well as CEO over the past decade, the remaining team is solid, and the progression is orderly'.
1407: Analysts at Investec have today upped their price target on the shares of Barclays to 320p from 285p, while holding on to their buy rating. Of interest, they believe consensus is underestimating the cost savings that will accrue to the lender from a leaner headcount at its investment banking division. However, they also believe that consensus is too optimistic regarding its estimates for the bank's revenues in 2013, which in their words has supported "a recent crop of quite frothy target price inflation."
1347: This is what The Telegraph has to say regarding the price movements seen today in shares of United Utilities. The gossip in the market is that Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) - the owner of Gatwick, London City and Edinburgh airports - has teamed up with Canadian investors Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTPP) and Borealis to mount a takeover bid for United Utilities.
1242: Bloomberg is linking today's advance in shares of United Utilities to speculation that a group of infrastructure funds may make a takeover offer. UK For their part, over at Cantor Capital they were commenting earlier in the day on how the UK press is making mention of the likes of BG, Marks & Spencer and Smiths Group in relation to possible M&A deals. FTSE 100 up 13 to 6,193.
1232: Lloyds will lay-off 940 persons as a part of its strategic review.
1139: Pascal Perrier has sold 30,000 ordinary shares of 5p each in Burberry for 1366.8p, according a statement issued by the company on Wednesday morning. The sale, which amounts to 410,040 pounds, was recorded under the description of a "Person Discharging Managerial Responsibilities". A current LinkedIn entry describes Pascal as "President Asia Pacific at Burberry" and Pascal is named by the same title in Burberry's 2011/2012 annual report. FTSE 100 up 9 to 6,188.
1121: At least three brokers have today reacted to Fresnillo's production update yesterday by trimming their target prices. Those are: UBS, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan.
0930: UK claimant count fell by 12,000 in December (Consensus: 0). The previous month's reading was revised down to show a fall of 3,000 versus the preliminary estimate of an 8,900 decrease. At its last meeting the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted to maintain the current size of its asset repurchase program by a margin of 8-1, as expected. Vodafone has acquired 298m pounds worth of shares - for Treasury purposes - from Barclays at a price of 161.7p. FTSE 100 up 10 to 6,189.
0855: During his speech at Bloomberg's headquarters in central London the Prime Minister has defended the need for greater Democracy in the process of building the European Union. He has also promised a referendum for 2015 should he be chosen as primer Minister again. Nevertheless, on the whole he seems to have argued in favour of remaining within the European project, although he wishes to renegotiate the terms on which that is done. In immediate reaction the euro is now only a tad lower against the single currency. FTSE 100 up 10 to 6,189.
0853: TUI AG has announced that a share-based transaction is not attractive at current exchange ratios. Its shares now lead falls on the Footsie.
0824: UK stocks have started higher, tracking gains on Wall Street and despite the sharp fall seen overnight in Japan. Shares of Unilever are leading the gains on the Footsie after it announced an increase in turnover of 10.5 per cent to 51.3bn euros, helped by a positive impact from foreign exchange
of 2.2 per cent and acquisitions net of disposals of 1.1 per cent. United Utilities may be benefiting from data showing insider buying. On the other side of the ledger, TUI is now the biggest faller, while Fresnillo is seeing some follow-through selling. To be had in account, Compass and Scottish and Southern go ex-dividend today. Cameron has begun his speech, he is defending the importance of the single market but arguing that there is no reason why the single currency and the single market must share the same boundaries. In particular, he is stressing the need for greater Democracy in the process of building Europe. The employment report is due out at 09:30. FTSE 100 is up 18 to 6,197.