Markets: Mixed messages from Capitol Hill

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London’s benchmark share index managed to claw back initial losses yesterday to close slightly higher as Wall Street made early session gains.

Leading stocks had been under pressure on fears that talks to avoid America’s so-called fiscal cliff have stalled.

A top US Senate member rattled investor nerves after saying there had been “little progress” in negotiations over a deal to head-off a US budget crisis, given the looming 1 January deadline to trim America’s hefty deficit.

But more optimistic comments from House of Representatives speaker John Boehner helped calm fears on both sides of the Atlantic. The FTSE 100 index ended the day up 3.57 points at 5,803.28.

Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari, said: “Most major stock indices are relatively flat despite posting small losses earlier on, following comments by John Boehner. The US House speaker claimed he is optimistic that a deal would be made and the fiscal cliff avoided.”

Thomas Cook staged a share revival after initial falls of more than 3 per cent triggered by news of its hefty bottom line loss for the year to 30 September. Shares later closed 1p ahead at 25p as investors warmed to new boss Harriet Green’s turnaround plans.

In the top flight, retail giant Marks & Spencer was one of the biggest risers after securing a ten-year funding plan for its staff pension scheme and revealing a marked fall in its pension deficit.

The agreement with trustees removes uncertainty for investors and sparked a 2 per cent hike in shares, up 8.3p to 387p.

In the FTSE 250, technology company Invensys surged 27 per cent to 280p after outlining a £1.74 billion deal to sell its rail division to Siemens.

NEW YORK: US stocks rose in volatile trade last night after comments from the top Republican in Congress on a possible compromise to avoid the “fiscal cliff” gave investors hope and turned the market around.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 106.90 points, or 0.83 per cent, to end at 12,985.03 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 10.99 points, or 0.79 per cent, to unofficially at 1,409.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 23.99 points, or 0.81 per cent, to close at 2,991.78.