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Important information: The value of investments can go down as well as up so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This is a third-party news feed and may not reflect Fidelity’s views.

London close: Stocks maintain gains amid post-Christmas rally

(Sharecast News) - London's stock markets closed in positive territory on Wednesday, buoyed by a global surge in stock prices as the S&P 500 neared an all-time high on Wall Street. The FTSE 100 index saw a rise of 0.36%, closing at 7,724.95 points, while the FTSE 250 index experienced a slightly higher gain of 0.46%, concluding the trading day at 19,720.75 points.

In currency markets, sterling was last up 0.53% on the dollar, trading at $1.2793, while it weakened 0.07% against the euro to change hands at €1.1515.

"In America, the S&P 500 buyers will certainly not back down before sending the index to a fresh high this week, or the next," said Swissquote Bank senior analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya.

"The index was trading just 0.5% below its all-time high yesterday, so it would clearly be a shame if we finished this year without an S&P 500 record.

"But yes, the market optimism is overstretched, the Fed's rate cut expectations are unfunded - in that, the Fed will probably cut rates but not at the speed that's been currently priced in - the oversold market conditions do hint that a downside correction would be healthy."

Boxing Day retail footfall rises year-on-year

In economic news, preliminary data from MRI Software showed a 1.4% increase in Boxing Day retail foot traffic this year compared to last.

The rise in footfall was attributed to increased visits to high streets and retail parks.

However, when compared to 2019, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, footfall on Boxing Day was still down by 30%.

That suggested that consumer confidence and in-store shopping habits have not fully returned to pre-pandemic levels despite the marginal improvement.

On the political front, the Treasury announced that Britain's spring budget statement would be delivered on 6 March .

There had been suggestions that the government could consider axing inheritance tax in an attempt to narrow a significant opinion poll deficit ahead of a general election, which must be called by January 2025.

Across the pond, in the week ended 15 December, US mortgage applications dropped 1.5%, halting a six-week run of increases, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The decline occurred despite benchmark Treasury yields continuing to decline following dovish signals from policymakers at the Federal Reserve.

Applications to refinance a home fell by 2% month-on-month but remained 18% higher year-on-year, while applications to purchase a home dropped by 1%.

Finally on data, China's industrial profits experienced a substantial boost in November, recording a double-digit increase of 29.5%, following a more modest 2.7% rise in October.

The surge in profits was primarily driven by an overall improvement in the manufacturing sector and a notable increase in industrial output during the same month.

However, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that industrial earnings for the first 11 months of 2023 still exhibited a year-on-year contraction of 4.4%.

That contraction, while significant, was still an improvement from the 7.8% drop reported up to October.

The NBS attributed the November profit increase to accelerated growth in industrial profits and returns on investments.

AstraZeneca rises on deal news, Mobile Streams slides

On London's equity markets, AstraZeneca saw a rise of 0.85% after announcing the acquisition of Gracell Biotechnologies, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical firm specialising in cell therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The deal, valued at $1.2bn, included an upfront cash payment of $2 per share, representing a substantial 62% premium over Gracell's closing market price on 22 December.

Additionally, a non-tradable contingent value right of 30 cents per share would be payable on achieving specific regulatory milestones.

HgCapital Trust was ahead 1.87% after announcing a partial sale of **IRIS Software Group** to LGP, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm.

While specific terms of the transaction were not disclosed, the valuation of HGT's investment in IRIS was £99.8m based on the deal.

HGT anticipated a net distribution of £42.1m.

Aviva managed gains of 0.35% after saying it expected additional proceeds of £80m from the sale of its stake in Singapore Life (Singlife) to Sumitomo Life.

The supplementary income would result from Sumitomo Life's acquisition of TPG's equity stake in Singlife.

Aviva now anticipated total proceeds from the sale of £930m.

Anglo American enjoyed a 2.53% boost in its stock value, driven by reports of its intention to sell a minority stake in the Woodsmith fertiliser mine project in North Yorkshire.

The move was aimed at helping the company cover expected costs of $9bn.

Capricorn Energy added 2.98% after Woodside Petroleum announced the departure of the floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel from Singapore for the Sangomar field development, offshore Senegal.

The development could lead to a contingent payment of either $25m or $50m to Capricorn, as stipulated in the sale and purchase agreement.

PPHE Hotel Group rose 0.44% after chief executive Boris Ivesha acquired 4.63 million shares in the London-listed international hospitality company.

Ivesha purchased the shares at an average price of 1,140.00p, totaling £52.86m.

On the downside, Mobile Streams slid 6.67% after it reported a significant decrease in gross profits for the year ended 30 June.

Gross profits plummeted to £12,000 from £0.45m year-on-year, with gross profit margins decreasing from 44% to just 1%.

The decline was attributed to the inclusion of "significant upfront royalties" on NFT contract revenues.

On an underlying earnings level, trading EBITDA resulted in a loss of £2.8m, widening from £1.4m year-on-year.

Reporting by Josh White for Sharecast.com.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,724.95 0.00% FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,720.75 0.00% techMARK (TASX) 4,309.21 0.00%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Ocado Group (OCDO) 753.20p 3.89% Rentokil Initial (RTO) 444.60p 2.61% Entain (ENT) 1,005.00p 2.55% Phoenix Group Holdings (PHNX) 534.60p 2.34% Anglo American (AAL) 1,975.80p 2.28% SEGRO (SGRO) 903.40p 2.03% Fresnillo (FRES) 596.80p 1.95% Ashtead Group (AHT) 5,476.00p 1.90% JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 167.90p 1.76% Intertek Group (ITRK) 4,257.00p 1.65%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 298.80p -1.19% B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 563.00p -1.16% IMI (IMI) 1,690.00p -1.11% Smurfit Kappa Group (CDI) (SKG) 3,152.00p -1.07% BT Group (BT.A) 126.10p -0.94% Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,802.00p -0.93% Next (NXT) 8,134.00p -0.93% Vodafone Group (VOD) 68.56p -0.87% Frasers Group (FRAS) 915.00p -0.81% United Utilities Group (UU.) 1,063.00p -0.70%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Diversified Energy Company (DEC) 1,161.50p 6.17% Helios Towers (HTWS) 86.50p 4.34% Bellevue Healthcare Trust (Red) (BBH) 154.80p 4.17% FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 459.50p 3.96% Future (FUTR) 774.50p 3.89% Darktrace (DARK) 364.10p 3.58% Syncona Limited NPV (SYNC) 123.80p 3.17% Hammerson (HMSO) 29.00p 2.98% Hilton Food Group (HFG) 790.00p 2.86% Kainos Group (KNOS) 1,135.00p 2.81%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Carnival (CCL) 1,289.00p -5.67% Harbour Energy (HBR) 304.10p -2.91% NB Private Equity Partners Ltd. (NBPE) 1,632.00p -1.69% Hochschild Mining (HOC) 105.30p -1.59% Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,586.00p -1.49% Energean (ENOG) 1,025.00p -1.44% Tyman (TYMN) 310.00p -1.43% IP Group (IPO) 57.70p -1.37% Trustpilot Group (TRST) 146.50p -1.35% JTC (JTC) 808.50p -1.34%

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Important information: This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice. When you are thinking about investing in shares, it’s generally a good idea to consider holding them alongside other investments in a diversified portfolio of assets. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

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