Comment: Footsie rises in thin trading as ‘fiscal cliff’ looms

Peter Ranscombe
Peter Ranscombe
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LONDON’S blue-chip stocks made modest gains during the half-day’s trading on Christmas Eve, although a lack of agreement over tackling the “fiscal cliff” in the United States held back sentiment.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 14.19 points at 5,954.18, a rise of just under 0.25 per cent that brought an end to the two previous session’s slight losses.

David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index, said: “With limited movement in both the markets and City streets, it looks like most decided that Christmas has already started.

“The FTSE 100 has however managed to stay positive. We have had a mild Santa rally so far this month, with the index up by around 1 per cent for December, but maybe not the rampant optimism that some were expecting.”

Jones warned that there could be volatile trading ahead during tomorrow’s and Friday’s sessions and on Hogmanay.

“There are still three trading days left this year and thin volumes can often exaggerate moves, so there could yet be some strength to come before 2012 is out,” he said.

In the top flight, miners attracted buying interest, with Kazakhmys up 11.5p at 770p and Fresnillo up 23p at 1,895p. Yet Russia-focused steel group Evraz dipped by 1.4 per cent to close down 3.5p at 254.3p despite investment bank Morgan Stanley highlighting the FTSE 100 constituent as one of its main “stocks to watch in 2013”.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley believe Evraz could benefit from growth in the Russian construction market.

Among other risers, luxury goods maker Burberry was up nearly 2 per cent or 22p to 1,239p, while Diageo, Scotland’s biggest distiller and the producer of brands including Bell’s, Johnnie Walker and Talisker, was up 20p to 1,827.5p

Broadcasting giant ITV edged up 0.1p to 106.7p as traders got their first chance to react to the weekend’s news that the British studio is buying a majority stake in American peer Gurney Productions, the firm behind surprise cable television hit Duck Dynasty.

In other deal news, FTSE 250 software firm Micro Focus bought three sets of business programmes from American peer Progress Software for $15 million (£9m). Some of the software was development by Iona Technologies, a spin out from Trinity College Dublin that was bought by Progress in 2008 for $162m. Micro Focus closed up 1.5p at 571.5p after Numis Securities analyst David Toms said: “Importantly we see this as clear evidence there are opportunities to deploy capital at high returns.”

NEW YORK: On Wall Street on Monday, the last day of trading before Christmas, stocks fell on concern that time is running out for lawmakers to reach a budget deal to avoid the US going over the “fiscal cliff.”

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.4 per cent to close at 13,139.08 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.2 per cent, closing at 1,426.66. The Nasdaq composite index closed down 0.2 per cent at 3,012.60.