1630: Close UK stocks closed modestly higher today, driven by AstraZeneca and further helped by gains in the US this afternoon, while even sanctions on Russia failed to dampen spirits significantly. In today's news, it was revealed that house prices in the UK increased by 0.6 per cent in April, while the CBI said the economic outlook for the coming three months was 'exceptionally strong'. Over in the US, the White House announced that the Department of the Treasury is imposing sanctions on seven officials of the Russian government and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin's inner circle. As well, on Friday China's Politburo signalled an additional large-scale easing of monetary policy was not likely. The FTSE 100 ended the session 14.47 points higher at 6,700.16 - notably, albeit marginally, above the psychologically significant level of 6,700.
1550: William Hill is another strong riser, aided by comments from Beaufort Securities, which reiterated its 'buy' rating on the betting firm following Friday's trading update. The gains also come ahead of a review due out Wednesday on fixed-odds betting terminals, which are expected to be softer than previously anticipated.
1533: Shares of Pfizer are gaining four per cent.
1532: In response to the new sanctions Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the US sanctions against Russia "will not remain unanswered and the response will be painful for Washington," Interfax reported. The Russian MICEX index is gaining 1.5 per cent.
1500: US pending home sales grew by 3.4 per cent month-on-month in March (consensus: 1 per cent).
1445: US President Barack Obama has announced new sanctions against seven individuals linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin's 'inner circle' and 17 companies.
1331: Three-month copper futures are lower by 0.4 per cent to 6,750.25 dollars per metric tonne.
1330: As a result of its investigation into the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, the UK's Serious Fraud Office has charged three former Barclays employees with alleged conspiracy to defraud.
1329: Drug development group Furiex Pharmaceuticals surged as much as 32 per cent before the start of trading on Wall Street after a takeover offer from Forest Laboratories for $1.1bn in cash.
1253: Commenting on BG's announcement this morning analysts at Investec described it as "strange". On the one hand, and after three profit warnings since he came on board, the firm is happy to "usher him through the exit". On the other hand, it will stick to his aggressive asset churn strategy, the main focus of which is on limiting the company's production levels at between 1.0 and 1.1m barrels a day. Before today the stock was trading at a 60 per cent premium to the sector.
1121: Shares of Reckitt Benckiser are amongst today's worst performers. The company may learn as soon as this week whether or not it has been successful in its 13.5bn dollar
offer for the healthcare division of US pharmaceuticals giant Merck & Co., The Times reported on Monday.
1036: AstraZeneca says that it is not appropriate to engage in talks with Pfizer and it remains committed to its strategy.
0930: Lloyds business barometer improved to a reading of 66 for April, versus 44 for the month before.
0928: Analysts at JP Morgan have upgraded their view on shares
of British Land to 'overweight' from 'neutral'.
0837: UK stocks started the day with a bang following reports that Pfizer was set to confirm its continuing interest in acquiring AstraZeneca. The American outfit has just revealed that its previous offer, made on January 4th, was equivalent to a 30 per cent premium, in line with the average for comparable transactions in the sector (of over 1bn dollars) carried out over the last five years, according to Bloomberg data. The above comes on the heels of multiple other M&A transactions announced, or speculated on, over the weekend. On the downside, BG is at the bottom of the pile following the resignation of its Chief Executive Officer. Acting as a backdrop, traders are closely watching the news-flow out of Russia and Ukraine, especially as regards the risk of sanctions being imposed on Russian companies. FTSE 100 up 15 to 6,701.