‘Santa Rally’ gifts record close to London stocks

London: London stocks closed at a record high Wednesday on the back of a Santa Rally in subdued trade after a long Christmas holiday, while Wall Street retreated from record highs.

The British capital’s benchmark FTSE 100 index of top blue-chip firms won 0.5 percent from last Friday as traders returned from a four-day holiday weekend, closing at a record high of 7,106.08 points, beating the previous record of 7,103.98 set in April 2015.

The “Santa Rally bullishness appears to remain firm on hopes of an OPEC-led production cut and Trump stimulus,” Accendo Markets analyst Mike van Dulken told AFP, with rising oil prices boosting a number of FTSE 100 stocks.
The record close came as US stocks have also been setting new highs following the US election victory of Donald Trump sparking hopes of additional spending and tax cuts, with the Dow having flirted with the 20,000 level in recent weeks.

Rising commodity prices have also boosted mining companies on the FTSE.

“The FTSE 100 is the star performer today, helped on its way higher by an excellent turn from the index’s mining contingent,” said analyst Chris Beauchamp at online trading firm IG.

Shares in Anglo American shot up 3.6 percent and BHP Billiton jumped 4.3 percent and Fresnillo soared 5.2 percent.

Rangold rose 4.9 percent and Rio Tinto 3.4 percent.

The main corporate deal of the day was British energy giant BP, which announced it has bought a network of Australian petrol stations from supermarket chain Woolworths for US$1.3 billion (1.2 billion euros).

BP said in a statement that it will establish a strategic partnership with Woolworths in a deal for the purchase, rebranding and operation of Woolworths’ existing 527 fuel and convenience stores, plus 16 sites under construction, for the equivalent of AUS$1.8 billion.

The company’s share price bumped 1.2 percent higher to close at 508.90 pence.

Frankfurt and Paris, which had reopened Tuesday, were essentially flat on Wednesday.

Thin trading volumes are expected to continue during what is the last trading week of 2016.

On Wall Street, the tech-heavy Nasdaq pushed higher at the open after having finished at a fresh record Tuesday, with the Dow once again briefly flirting with the 20,000 milestone.

US stock prices quickly pulled back, however, with the Dow and Nasdaq down modestly approaching midday.

Meanwhile, the dollar, which has strengthened on expectations of rising US interest rates, pushed higher. The euro fell back below the $1.04 level, which it briefly breached last week.

In Asia, Hong Kong stocks rose Wednesday to rebound from recent lows.

Tokyo shares ended flat despite Toshiba’s second straight double-digit plunge.

Stock in the troubled Japanese conglomerate Toshiba plummeted more than 20 percent as the company said it may book a one-time loss of several billion dollars over its US nuclear business.

Hong Kong finished up 0.8 percent on the market’s first working day since Christmas, while Shanghai slid 0.4 percent by the close.

Oil prices pushed higher ahead of US energy inventory data due Thursday, but analysts said trading volumes were around half typical levels.

“On such low volumes it’s difficult to read much into the moves and focus will turn to OPEC in the new year,” said CMC Markets sales trader Alex Furber, referring to planned output curbs by the oil cartel to bolster prices.

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