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London open: Fed taper sparks ‘Santa Rally’ as stocks jump

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UK markets opened around 1% higher on Thursday in the aftermath of the Federal Reserve’s decision to taper its quantitative easing programme, as investors welcomed the end to months of uncertainty.

“This should in turn remove much of the volatility that we have seen in the final quarter of 2013, gearing us up for a delayed but eagerly anticipated ‘Santa Rally’ to finish this year in a bang and kick off the next year in an upbeat fashion,” said Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.

The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday night that it would scale back its monthly bond-buying programme from $85bn to $75bn and said it would make similar moderate reductions in the future subject to incoming economic data. The news sent both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 to new record highs on Wall Street.

Policymakers predicted that the jobless rate – currently at 7% – would drop to around 6.5% by the end of 2014. However, they stressed that they would hold interest rates close to zero “well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6.5%, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the [FOMC’s] 2% longer-run goal”.

“The action today is intended to keep the level of accommodation the same overall and to push the economy forward,” said Chairman Ben Bernanke. “We are committed to doing what is necessary to getting inflation back to target.”

AstraZeneca jumps on BMS deal

AstraZeneca was a high riser this morning after spending up to $4.1bn in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s stake in their diabetes joint venture, giving the British company full ownership of intellectual property and global rights for a large portfolio of products.

Fellow pharma group GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also advanced after announcing yesterday evening that US regulators have approved Anoro Ellipta, its treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Upside however was limited on the news that Denmark has approved the sale of a generic copy of GSK’s biggest product, Advair.

There were just a handful of fallers on the FTSE 100 early on, with mining peers Fresnillo and Randgold Resources among them as precious metals prices declined.

Support services group Serco fell after warning that recent contract problems may hit its cash flow this year. However, it still said 2013 results were likely to meet market hopes.

Financial stocks were mixed with RSA Insurance, Standard Chartered and HSBC trading lower, and Barclays, Resolution and Prudential among the best performers.

FTSE 100 – Risers

Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,122.00p +3.03%
BAE Systems (BA.) 446.20p +2.79%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 335.90p +2.50%
Hammerson (HMSO) 502.50p +2.49%
Standard Life (SL.) 348.60p +2.44%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,196.00p +2.40%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 949.50p +2.32%
WPP (WPP) 1,328.00p +2.31%
ITV (ITV) 185.40p +2.26%
Prudential (PRU) 1,299.00p +2.20%

FTSE 100 – Fallers

Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 3,820.00p -2.45%
Fresnillo (FRES) 717.00p -1.38%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,309.00p -0.76%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 643.40p -0.76%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 89.90p -0.72%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 647.50p -0.46%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,674.00p -0.24%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 364.80p -0.08%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 306.50p -0.08%

Source: ShareCast