FTSE given lift by airline deal

The FTSE 100 nudged up this morning led by BA owner International Airlines group (IAG) which announced a deal for Lufthansa's bmi.

Overall European shares started higher with the FTSEurofirst 300 index gaining around one per cent in early trade while global stocks, as measured by MSCI world equity index, were edged up 0.2 per cent though still on track for a fall of about 12 per cent in 2011.

Investors are winding down for year-end and trading volumes are set to dwindle but the threat of mass credit ratings downgrades for the Eurozone countries is still casting a shadow.

Italy will come under the spotlight later as a vote of confidence is expected on Prime Minister Mario Monti's government in the upper house to seal approval of a 33-billion euro (£28bn) austerity package.

In the UK third quarter growth rate was revised up to 0.6 per cent from 0.5 per cent, in a crumb of comfort amid the gloomy economic outlook.

On London's blue chip index IAG was the highest riser, up 2.2 per cent, after confirming a deal to buy German rival Lufthansa's UK unit bmi for £172.5m in cash

RBS was up 1.9 per cent and Barclays 1.8 per cent. Insurer Aviva and oil giant BP rose by 1.7 per cent.

Commodities markets were muted in thinning pre-holiday trade, with London Metal Exchange copper up slightly at $7,478.25 a tonne and Brent Crude oil little changed at around $107 a barrel.

Miners were the poorest performers on the FTSE 100 in early trading with Vedanta, down 1.5 per cent, the biggest loser.

Randgold Resources was down 0.3 per cent while metals producers Evraz and Polymetal were also off by a similar level.

In Asia the Nikkei closed down 0.7 per cent and the Hang Seng 0.2 per cent.

Across the Atlantic later investors will be confronted with a raft of data including the final reading for third-quarter US GDP, the November Chicago Fed index, and the latest weekly US jobless claims.