LONDON (ShareCast) - 1630: House prices in England and Wales rose by 2.9% month-on-month in April, to reach an all-time high of £243,737, it was revealed today, while the number of first-time buyers being accepted for mortgages rose in February. Elsewhere, one leading economic think tank announced that large corporations are sapping the life out of the economy by sitting on large cash piles. Across the Channel, the yield on benchmark 10-year Spanish debt smashed through the six per cent barrier as worried investors demanded greater returns if they were to hold the country's debt. In company news, International Power soared into the top spot after GDF SUEZ upped its bid for the firm from 390p to 418p per share. The FTSE 100 closed up 14 points at 5,666.
1514: The US market has started the week on a firm footing, as expected, after stronger than expected US retail sales data but that has not been enough to prevent Footsie from coming off its intra-day high. US retail sales rose 0.8% in March, topping expectations of a 0.3% rise. Rio Tinto is clinging on to remnants of the morning's gains, which were inspired by a bullish broker note from Credit Suisse, ahesd of Rio's first quarter production report on Tuesday. FTSE 100 is up 21 at 5,673.
1402: Risers outnumber fallers among Footsie constituents by two-to-one as the top share index hovers around the 5700 mark. Engineering firm GKN has taken pole position ahead of a trading update on Wednesday. FTSE 100 is up 50 at 5,702.
1303: US financial giant Citigroup has just published lower than forecast first quarter earnings of 0.95 dollars, versus the consensus forecast of 1.02. Excluding one-time charges, however, earnings per share seem to have come in at 1.11 dollars. Shares of the bank are now trading up by 2%.
1259: With the Dow Jones tipped to open around 35 points higher when Wall Street opens, London's top shares are consolidating early gains. While most financial stocks are in the doldrums, fund manager Aberdeen Asset is wanted. A week-end press article in the Financial Times reminded the market that Japanese banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking took a 9.9% stake in Aberdeen in 2008 as a first step in building a 19.9% stake. FTSE 100 is up 34 at 5,686.
1159: FTSE 100 is up 35 at 5,687. AMEC, the engineering consultant focused on the resources industry, after saying it is on track to deliver double-digit percentage underlying revenue growth in 2012, despite the continued macro economic uncertainty.
1033: The Footsie has held on to early gains despite some heavy falls in the banking sector. Lloyds is now down 5.1 per cent, while RBS and Barclays are 2.6 per cent and 1.7 per cent lower, respectively. Eyes continue to focus on Eurozone bond yields with Spanish 10-year debt yields having surpassed six per cent for the first time since December, when the ECB first intervened in the markets offering its LTROs. "This is likely to now prompt more talk of a third ECB intervention, especially if they continue their recent climb towards seven per cent, the point at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal all took bailouts,' said Craig Erlam, an analyst from Alpari. FTSE 100 up 26 at 5,678.
0942: Negative sentiment is piling up on the banking sector this morning. Moody's Investors Service has said that it will delay its publication of a review into European banks until next month as it wants to be sure that all relevant information has been received and analysed. Weak financials are taking the shine off an otherwise bright start by the top share index; with the exception of airline IAG, all ten of the worst performing blue-chips this morning are from the financial sector. IAG, which recently acquired British Midland (BMI), is in talks with BMI workers at George Best Belfast City airport over possible job losses. In the mid-cap sector former FTSE 100 constituent Cairn has received some welcome good news; Agora Oil and Gas, a firm it is set to buy, has struck oil at its Skarfjell Prospect in the Norwegian North Sea. Cairn has had a spectacularly unsuccessful and costly run recently on oil exploration off the coast of Greenland. FTSE 100 is up 12 at 5,664.
0848: Power producer International Power leads London higher after the independent directors agreed the terms of a recommended bid to be made for the company by majority shareholder, French energy provider GDF SUEZ. Oils and miners have also started the week on the front foot but banks are friendless. There is renewed speculation that discussions between Lloyds Banking and the Co-Op over the sale of more than 600 bank branches to the mutual society have hit a road-block. Meanwhile, Barclays' tax deals are set to come under scrutiny in a US court this week, with the US Internal Revenue Service claiming that Barclays has exploited numerous tax loopholes to limit its US tax liabilities. The group has also admitted that it will subsidise the tax bill of its extremely well remunerated Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond this year and in future years to the tune of several hundred thousands pounds. Newspaper reports also indicate the bank has admitted mistakenly selling interest rate hedge products to small business clients that were meant to be targeted as investment professionals. The Daily Telegraph reports that the presentation used in the sales pitches was 'not for distribution to retail clients'. FTSE 100 is up 30 at 5,682.