London close: Stocks stabilise but analysts remain cautious
London's top-flight index edged higher on Wednesday on the back of an improved news-flow ahead of this week's Sino-US trade talks, but analysts remained cautious.
The FTSE 100 was up 0.33% at 7,166.50, rising in tandem with European peers on news that China is still open to agreeing a partial trade deal with the US.
Bloomberg cited an official with direct knowledge of the talks as saying that Beijing was focused on limiting the damage to the world’s second-largest economy.
The same official said that negotiators heading to Washington for trade talks on Thursday were not optimistic about securing a broad agreement that would end the trade spat for good. However, China would accept a limited deal as long as no more tariffs are imposed by US President Donald Trump, including two rounds of higher duties due to take effect this month and in December.
In return, Beijing would offer non-core concessions such as increased purchases of agricultural products, albeit without giving in on major sticking points, the official said.
A report from the Financial Times also helped to underpin the tone, as it said Chinese officials are offering to increase annual purchases of US agricultural products by $10bn a year.
But Josh Mahony, market analyst at IG, said: "Expectations are low for tomorrows talks, with the US rejecting the prospect of a partial deal which could break the current deadlock.
"However, one way or another, markets will be heavily influenced by the outcome from tomorrow's trade talks."
On home shores, sterling briefly popped higher after The Times said the EU was ready to make a "major concession" to Prime Minster Boris Johnson by proposing a mechanism for the Northern Irish assembly to leave a new backstop after a number of years.
The pound's gains were short-lived, however, and by the end of trading, the currency was down 0.08% against the US dollar at 1.2210 and 0.26% weaker versus the euro at 1.1125.
David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB, said: "While this appears constructive No 10 has already told the EU that it won’t accept a Northern Ireland only backstop - regardless of a time-limit - and it’s quite feasible that this is little more than posturing and the next move in the Brexit blame game."
In equity markets, Just Eat racked up solid gains after Dutch online food delivery firm Takeaway.com posted an 87% jump in third-quarter orders thanks to organic growth and acquisitions.
Gambling company GVC Holdings rallied as it upgraded its full-year profit forecasts after a strong third quarter driven by online revenues. The company said it now expected earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation to be in the range of £670m - £680m, up from £650m - £670m.
Domino’s Pizza was knocked lower after Jefferies started the stock at ‘underperform’, while pub group Marston’s was also lower after a reinstatement at ‘underperform’ by the same outfit.
AJ Bell was in the red after an initiation at ‘sell’ by Liberum.
FTSE 100 - Risers
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 7,248.00p 3.25%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,830.50p 2.54%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,850.00p 1.85%
CRH (CRH) 2,641.00p 1.38%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,091.00p 1.17%
BAE Systems (BA.) 555.00p 1.06%
Diageo (DGE) 3,355.00p 1.05%
BT Group (BT.A) 177.98p 1.04%
SEGRO (SGRO) 796.60p 1.04%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 190.15p 1.04%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Rightmove (RMV) 519.00p -3.50%
Fresnillo (FRES) 669.40p -2.82%
Halma (HLMA) 1,890.50p -2.28%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 202.30p -2.18%
Centrica (CNA) 68.00p -1.99%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 827.00p -1.83%
Next (NXT) 5,860.00p -1.78%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,119.00p -1.72%
Evraz (EVR) 408.10p -1.66%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,996.00p -1.63%
FTSE 250 - Risers
GVC Holdings (GVC) 788.60p 5.15%
Pagegroup (PAGE) 377.60p 2.94%
Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 116.40p 2.65%
Equiniti Group (EQN) 205.80p 2.59%
Ascential (ASCL) 357.40p 2.52%
Rank Group (RNK) 186.40p 2.42%
Airtel Africa (AAF) 50.95p 2.23%
Greggs (GRG) 1,793.00p 2.10%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 3,625.00p 2.03%
IP Group (IPO) 57.50p 1.95%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,170.00p -5.37%
OneSavings Bank (OSB) 323.20p -5.16%
Oxford Instruments (OXIG) 1,216.00p -4.10%
FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 674.00p -3.99%
Drax Group (DRX) 266.40p -3.84%
4Imprint Group (FOUR) 2,900.00p -3.65%
Fisher (James) & Sons (FSJ) 1,858.00p -3.53%
TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 1,154.00p -3.51%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 327.40p -3.05%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 496.50p -2.95%