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FTSE 100 struggles higher into mid-morning with banks leading blue-chip risers

  • FTSE 100 rises 19 points
  • AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine approved by UK regulators
  • Bitcoin rises to record highs

10.11am: FTSE 100 struggles higher

Heading into mid-morning, the FTSE 100 has advanced slightly from its mostly flat start, adding 19 points to reach 6,622 shortly after 10am.

One segment of the blue-chip index having a good morning were the UK’s largest banks, with Natwest Group PLC (LON:NWG) leading the risers with a 2.7% rise to 167.8p while Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY) climbed 2.3% to 37.6p, Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) ascended 2.1% to 478.8p and Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) was up 2% at 152.2p.

Brexit trade deal optimism may be giving the financial another lift this morning as the deal moves through the legislative channels in the UK and the EU, while a rise in house prices of 0.8% month-on-month in December may have lifted hopes of increased mortgage lending as buyers continue to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

8.43am: FTSE 100 makes sluggish start

The FTSE 100 has made a fairly subdued start to Wednesday’s session as investors seemed content to take a breather despite the news of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine being approved by UK regulators.

Shortly after 8.30am, the blue-chip index was up around 9 points at 6,611, with Pershing Square Holdings Ltd (LON:PSH) at the top of the risers with a 2% gain to 2,585p while Guinness owner Diageo PLC (LON:DGE) was the biggest faller after sliding 1% to 3,016p.

Despite the slow start for the FTSE 100, the news of the vaccine approval has provided a small boost for AstraZeneca in early deals, with the shares up 0.4% at 7,493.

The morning was also bringing good news for Bitcoin, with the original cryptocurrency once again trading at around record levels after rising 5.4% over the last 24 hours to US$27,973.

Bitcoin has been one of the biggest winners of 2020, having almost quadrupled in value since the start of the year as investors began to look more closely at the digital currency as a hedge against the volatility of the stock markets brought on by the pandemic.

7.30am: FTSE 100 to open little changed

The FTSE 100 is expected to open little changed on Wednesday morning as traders take a breather following Tuesday’s surge.

Spread-better IG expects the FTSE 100 to start around 7 points higher after ending Tuesday’s session with a 100 point gain to 6,602, its highest level since early March.

Expectations of a flat open followed a negative performance for Wall Street overnight, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 0.22% at 30,335 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.22% to 3,727 and the Nasdaq fell 0.38% to 12,850.

Trading was more mixed in Asia this morning, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 0.45% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.5%.

While the FTSE 100 is set for a muted start, there could be some news that may drive the market higher despite the seasonally quiet trading period, particularly following recent news that the UK regulator has approved a coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) and the University of Oxford, increasing the chances of mass vaccinations of the British population amid a surge in cases of the virus.

Around the markets:

Sterling: US$1.35, up 0.3%

Brent crude: US$51.40 a barrel, up 0.6%

Gold: US$1,881 an ounce, up 0.22%

Bitcoin: US$28,422, up 8.4%

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