FTSE solid as banks edge up

The FTSE 100 saw modest advances today ahead of talks between France and Germany on how to create the environment for a sustained recovery in the Eurozone.

The bloc's debt crisis will be top of the agenda when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy meet in Berlin.

Later this week the European Central Bank will hold its latest council meeting with investors keen to hear ECB president Mario Draghi's latest take on any action to ease the debt crisis.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.2 per cent this morning, helped by banks and positive export data from Germany.

Italy's UniCredit rose 1.5 per cent, after suffering double-digit losses for three straight days last week, when it announced a massive discount on a rights issue.

In the UK today Lloyds was up one per cent after reports that it is poised to sell off its UAE business. Barclays was up 0.4 per cent.

Meanwhile miner Fresnillo was the highest climber on London's blue chip index, up 2.35 per cent.

iPhone chipmaker Arm Holdings also nudged up by more than two per cent while InterContinental Hotel Group, whose price target was upgraded by RBS, saw a rise of 1.8 per cent.

Pub and leisure group Whitbread was up 1.7 per cent with packaging giant Rexam seeing a 1.4 per cent lift.

Supermarket chain Morrisons nudged up by more than 0.5 per cent despite a trading update which showed a slowing in sales growth.

Heading in the other direction pharmaceutical heavyweight GlaxoSmithKline was off by 1.8 per cent, making it the biggest loser in early trading.

It was dragged down after the release of a mixed batch of clinical trials results on a key new lung drug.

Miner Antofagasta was down by around 1.5 per cent as the sector saw mixed fortunes with lower metal prices hitting some companies.

Resources investors will also be eyeing results in the US from aluminium group Alcoa which will kick off the US fourth-quarter earnings season.

On the FTSE All-share HMV dropped by six per cent despite reporting a slowing of its sales decline over Christmas.

Commodity prices were lower in Asian trade, with US crude oil down 0.6 per cent, while copper dropped one per cent.

The Nikkei closed down 1.16 per cent while the Hang Seng was up 1.47 per cent.

Across the Atlantic later December's US employment index will be released while November consumer credit figures are due for release after the London market close.