• FTSE 100 adds 12.66 points
  • US stocks hold firm, but off records
  • Miners higher after China data
  • Sterling strength limits gains

5.00pm: Post-Christmas fairly damp squib

The FTSE 100 index ended its first session back after the Christmas break with some modest gains, supported by advances on Wall Street, although overall the mood was pretty subdued in the absence of much corporate or economic news.

At the close, the UK blue-chip index was 12.66 points, or around 0.2% higher at 7,644.90, midway between the day’s peak of 7,665.40 and its low of 7,622.46.

On Wall Street around London’s close, the Dow Jones Industrials Average was about 70 points, or 0.3% higher at 28,695, while the broader S&P 500 index was up 0.2% and the tech-laden Nasdaq Composite added 0.1%.

All three major US stock indexes had opened at record highs as traders cheered upbeat industrial data from China, but the gains were pared in the absence of any new information on an initial Sino-US trade agreement.

In London, miners led the Footsie’s advance as the heavyweight sector benefited from the upbeat data from China, the world’s biggest consumer of commodities.

But the sector’s gains were constrained by a stronger pound, as the UK currency pushed back up towards the US$1.31 level versus the dollar after a recent wobble, having a translational impact for those reporting their earnings in the greenback.

3.55pm: FTSE 100 heads into the red 

FTSE 100 was ending the day back where it started as hopes of another storming day on US markets proved overblown

Having risen as much as 27 points at one point, the UK’s index of leading shares was just about hanging onto a green number heading towards the close with a rise of 0.6 points at 7,633.

Afternoon interest was focused largely on the US where the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P500 have both set new records recently.

Big gains were forecast on talk of progress between the US and China over trade talks, but the rises were less than expected, which affected the UK mood as well.

Just Eat PLC (LON:JE.) and Next PLC (LON:NXT) were the best of the risers.

Takeaway app Just Eat was 2.4% higher at 829.80p as it moves nearer to completion of its merger with rival Takeaway.com.

Next climbed 2% to 7,252p. The retail giant is traditionally the first to report sales figures for the Christmas period and its numbers will be revealed a week from today.

3.05pm: UK gains trimmed

FTSE 100 has shed most of its gains even though the US has seen a bright start.

The index of leading shares is now only 7 points higher at 7,640 even with new records for both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500.

The Dow is currently up 66 at 28, 688, while the S&P is 4 points or 0.1% higher at 3,244.

1.55pm: UK blue chips going OK, US set for new highs

FTSE 100 is continuing its climb towards the end of the year with the index of leading UK shares 27 points to the good at 7,660 ahead of an expected strong start on Wall Street.

Miner and trader Glencore PLC (LON: GLEN) and takeaway app group Just Eat PLC (LON:JE.) have now joined steel group Evraz at the top of the risers.

On the FTSE 250, it is oiler Enquest Plc (LON:ENQ) pushing on with a 10% rise to 21.3p, while retailers are subdued on reports of poor footfall at the start of the January sales as shoppers burnt themselves out during the Black Friday weekend.

It was another excuse to sell embattled fashion chain Ted Baker plc (LON:TED), which is 5% lower at 426p.

Attention has now switched to the US where more records are set to be broken when trading gets underway.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index and S&P 500 hit new highs overnight and both are expected to push on again today driven by good retail sales, progress on the US-China trade deal talks and a dovish Federal Reserve.

Dow Jones is expected to add 100 points to its last close of 28,621 according to financial bookmakers.

Better economic news out of China has also helped the mood with industrial profits rising by 5.4% or the best number for eight months and reversing three straight months of losses.


10.35am: Some progress

Mining stocks are still doing the grunt work this morning as the FTSE 100 looks to cement its position above 7,600.

The index of leading shares was up 20 points (0.3%) at 7,653, with six of the top seven risers coming from the minerals sector, while the seventh, steel producer Evraz PLC (LON:EVR) – up 1.6% – generally moves in lock-step with the mineral extractions sector anyway.

NMC Health PLC (LON:NMC), down 1.6% at 1,754p, was the biggest faller, which will doubtless please the stock’s many short sellers – around 4.6% of the company’s shares have been borrowed and sold by speculators who expect to be able to buy them back cheaper later.

8.40am: Solid start despite sterling’s rally against the dollar

The FTSE 100 opened modestly higher despite sterling establishing itself above US$1.30 against the US dollar.

London’s index of leading shares was up 14 points at 7,646, helped by a bit of support for mining stocks.

On the forex markets, the pound was up more than a third of a cent at US$1.3032. Against the euro, it was off a tenth of a cent at €1.1701.

There was virtually no news from London’s heavyweight to keep the small cohort of City traders on duty interested, although the NMC Health PLC (LON:NMC)/Muddy Waters dispute rumbles on.

The Middle East-focused hospitals operator has attempted to defuse accusations about suspiciously high development costs at one of its hospitals by releasing some third-party documents but the market does not seem overly impressed, as the shares are down 1.2%.

Proactive news headlines:

Anglo African Oil & Gas PLC (LON:AAOG) has provisionally agreed to sell part of its interest in the Tilapia field in the Republic of Congo. It has entered into a conditional sale and purchase agreement with Zenith Energy Ltd (LON:ZEN) (CVE:ZEE) for the sale of an 80% interest in the subsidiary that holds a 56% interest in Tilapia. Zenith has agreed to pay £1mln for the stake, of which £500,000 is in cash payable in six equal monthly instalments from the date of completion, while £500,000 will be satisfied in Zenith shares.

88 Energy Limited (LON:88E) (ASX:88E) has said the initial snow trail from Dalton Highway to the Charlie-1 appraisal well in Alaska is complete. In an update issued on 26 December, the company said that construction of an ice road to the well, at Project Icewine on the Central North Slope, is on course to commence before the end of the year, weather permitting.

Chaarat Gold Holdings Limited (LON:CGH), has concluded a stabilisation agreement with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic regarding the company’s Tulkubash and Kyzyltash projects. The agreement is based on a scheme in the Kyrgyz Republic designed to encourage investment in the country by providing investors formal assurances on the stability of the tax regime. Meanwhile, Chaarat revealed project construction continues to progress well at Tulkubash, with the first gold production on track for late 2021.

Adamas Finance Asia Limited (LON:ADAM) said one of its portfolio assets, Future Metal, has commenced production of dolomite. The investment company has an 85% shareholding in Future Metal (formerly known as Hong Kong Mining), representing its largest investment by value in the portfolio. Future Metal said the processing line has been installed at its quarry in Xi County, Linfen City, in the Shanxi Province of China and the initial run of the processing plant has been successfully conducted.

7.00am: Footsie set for a quietly positive sta

It’s the first trading day after Christmas and although volumes are expected to be low, at least the trend is positive.

The Footsie is expected to open at around 7,658, up 26 points.

Corporate news flow is, as one might expect, light with any company putting out an announcement at this time of the year probably hoping it will be ignored anyway.

Around the markets

  • Sterling: US$1.3012, up 0.15 cents
  • 10-year gilt: 0.775%
  • Gold: US$1,512.80 an ounce, down US$1.70
  • Brent crude: US$63.50 a barrel, up 7 cents
  • Bitcoin: US$7,200.41, down US$7.17