FTSE edges up as investors eye US strategy

The FTSE 100 opened solidly this morning as investors kept their eyes on the situation across the Atlantic with hopes still alive that the US Federal Reserve will trigger stimulus measures to boost the struggling economy.

US stocks rose for a third straight day yesterday in a volatile session, after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting boosted expectations that the US central bank will intervene.

Weak consumer data in the UK and US underlined the fragility of the economic recovery and added weight to the call for new government action.

European shares edged up overall with the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares up 0.6 per cent, with miners the strongest performers.

The highest climber on London's blue chip index though was medical supplies company Smith & Nephew which was up four per cent. The rise was fuelled by a revival of rumours that the company could be a bid target.

Building services giant Wolseley was the second biggest climber, with a 2.3 per cent lift.

Engineers Weir Group and Rolls-Royce were also among the strongest performers, trading up by around two per cent.

Among financial services companies hedge fund giant Man Group was one of the FTSE 100's top gaining shares, nudging up by 2.1 per cent.

Meanwhile retailer Tesco saw its shares rise 1.8 per cent after announcing that it would be shutting up shop in Japan after an eight year struggle to establish itself in the market.

BP edged up despite losing out to Exxonmobil on a contract with Russia's Rosneft to develop oil fields in the Arctic.

Lloyds was up 1.4 per cent, RBS 0.25 per cent and HSBC 0.2 per cent.

But Barclays edged down by 0.2 per cent in early trading.

Other fallers on the index included investment bank Schroders which was down by 3.5 per cent.

But it was the property sector overall which took the biggest hit with British Land and Land securities down 1.9 per cent, with Hammerson seeing its price fall by 1.4 per cent.

The fall was prompted by Land Securities and British Land being downgraded by two notches by analysts at Morgan Stanley. Price targets across the sector were cut by 20 per cent.

FTSE 350-listed Omega Insurance was up around nine per cent after confirming it was in talks with a suitor.

Meanwhile ex-dividend factors clipped 0.25 points off the FTSE 100 with Capita, Serco and Wood Group losing their payout attractions.

Japan's Nikkei index closed marginally up overnight with the Hang Seng up 1.6 per cent.