Markets await Bernanke’s testimony

TRADERS have been holding their breath ahead of United States Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before Congress today, with markets struggling to find direction.

The FTSE 100 index closed down 29.76 points at 6,556.35 as the City bided its time before Bernanke shares his views on the health of the world’s largest economy and how soon the Fed’s support may tapper off.

David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index, said: “Although the day has been abundant in economic data releases, the markets are clearly biding their time, as there is little doubt the main event this week will be Bernanke’s two-day testimony.”

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Miners were in demand, with silver giant Fresnillo soaring 6 per cent or 57.5p to 1,016p after analysts at Citigroup reiterated their “neutral” rating on the stock, while Rio Tinto climbed 76.5p or 2.7 per cent to 2,883p after iron ore production rose.

Insurer Prudential sold its closed-book Japanese life insurance business and was added to the “conviction buy” list by analysts at Goldman Sachs. The stock edged up 6p to 1,131p.

Edinburgh-based dating website operator Cupid spend 
£9 million buying back shares, a day after selling some of its flirtier businesses to co-founder Max Polyakov in a £45m deal.

Cupid dropped 10 per cent or 8.5p to close at 76p, having risen by 16.5 per cent on Monday.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was also among the biggest top-flight risers – up 4.7p to 383.7p – after Nomura issued an upbeat note on the European general retail sector. PC World and Currys owner Dixons Retail was also boosted by the note, up 0.5p to 43.1p.

Scottish Gas parent Centrica made headway after an upgrade from Barclays. Its shares were 5.4p higher to 379.9p.

NEW YORK: Wall Street eased last night, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index snapping its eight-day winning streak after disappointing sales from Coca-Cola while investors turned cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve chairman’s congressional testimony.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 32.33 points, or 0.21 per cent, to end at 15,451.93 while the S&P 500 ended down 6.25 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 1,676.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 8.99 points, or 0.25 per cent,at 3,598.50.