1630: Close The FTSE finished the week up 37 points and the day 13 points higher, lifted by Next which helped drive the retail sector as a whole higher. In today’s macro news, UK house prices rose in December by the biggest amount in more than four years, up 1.4 per cent month-on-month. Elsewhere, lending to businesses sank 4.7bn pounds in November, marking the biggest decline since April 2011, while construction activity was revealed to have grown more than expected in December. The FTSE 100 closed up 12.76 points at 6,730.67.
1500: US stocks are higher after the Standard & Poors (S&P) 500 Index started the year lower for the first time since 2008. The S&P 500 rose 0.1 per cent to 1,833.88 at 9:30 in New York ahead of a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and two other Fed officials. The comments are likely to be quite upbeat overall given that the Feds tapering process is already underway, said Michael Every, head of financial-markets research for Asia-Pacific at Rabobank International.
1355: The US market is expected to be little changed as investors wait on a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for clues on whether the central bank will announce a further tapering. Bernanke, who steps down this month, announced at Feds December meeting that the central bank would begin scaling back monthly bond purchases to 75bn dollars from 85bn dollars.
1300: Lending to businesses sank 4.7m pounds in November, BoE data has shown, marking the biggest decline since April 2011.In contrast, mortgage lending for November rose to 70,758 from 68,029 in October, the highest level since January 2008. Over in the US, stock markets look set for a decent rise across the board. The FTSE 100 is up 12.45 points at 6,730.36.
1210: After its upbeat trading report this morning, Next is now leading the FTSE higher, with fellow retailers M&S and Sainsbury not far behind. Meanwhile, supermarket chain Tesco reports that it had completed the sale and leaseback of a portfolio of four Homeplus stores and accompanying mall space in South Korea. The deal generated total gross proceeds in excess of 355m pounds. The FTSE 100 is up 6.66 points at 6,724.57.
1119: After a slow start, the FTSE 100 has held on to gains, trading up 5.63 points at 6,723.54, after some better-than-expected UK economic data. The construction PMI fell from 62.6 to 62.1 in December but came in marginally ahead of the 62 consensus forecast. Meanwhile, mortgage approvals rose from a revised 68,029 to a near six-year high of 70,758 in November, above the rise to 69,700 expected.
0923: Schroders and Hargreaves Lansdown are performing well this morning, helping markets push into positive territory, after analysts at Barclays Capital highlighted an improving flow outlook for UK asset managers in 2014. The bank pointed out that the sector outperformed the FTSE 100 in 2013, rising by 38 per cent on average. With more upside seen this year – Barclays‘ equity strategists predict that the FTSE 100 will end the year up 14 per cent at 7,700 – asset managers should benefit, given the “improving industry-wide flow momentum  particularly from UK retail”. The bank said that inflow rates are still “sub-trend” and have the potential to improve further. The FTSE 100 is up 12.67 at 6,730.58.
0832: Markets have opened in the red again despite a decent performance by retail stocks after Next raised its full-year profit guidance following a ‘significantly’ better-than-expected fourth quarter. The retailer also revealed a special dividend of 50p a share and said it would return a further 300m pounds of surplus cash in the year ahead. However, dampening sentiment this morning was yet more disappointing economic data, following a raft of worsening manufacturing figures from China, the UK and US out yesterday. Asian markets retreated overnight after the Chinese services PMI for December fell from 56 to 54.6. The FTSE 100 is down 14 at 6,703.91.