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London close: Stocks little changed ahead of FOMC minutes

London stocks ended a touch lower on Wednesday in a pretty listless session, as investors awaited the release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's September policy meeting, after the close.
The FTSE 100 finished down 0.06% to 7,533.81, while the pound was 0.02% higher versus the dollar at 1.3204 and 0.30% weaker against the euro at 1.1148.

IG analyst Joshua Mahony said: "A lack of any real notable economic data from Europe today means the market's attention will undoubtedly be geared towards the release of the FOMC minutes, with investors looking out for any clues as to whether a third 2017 hike will transpire. Amid a strengthening economy and a rising chance of Trump passing his tax cuts, there is reason to believe that we will see the role of monetary policy diminish amid a growing influence of government-led stimulus."

The FOMC minutes are due at 1900 BST.

Away from the UK and the US, investors were keeping an eye on Spain after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont softened his stance on independence on Tuesday, looking to negotiate with Madrid.

Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said: "While Puigdemont remained clear that they had been given a mandate for independence by the Catalan people, his call for talks in order to find a peaceful resolution was the much preferred option at this stage. A declaration of independence on Tuesday could have led to a chain of events that made the situation much worse and seen Puigdemont arrested, likely leading to more unrest."

In corporate news, Smith & Nephew rallied amid speculation that activist investor Elliott Management has built a stake in the company and NMC Health was boosted by an initiation at 'overweight' by CI Capital Holdings.

Homeware retailer Dunelm racked up strong gains after it reported a 9.3% jump in total like-for-like sales for the 13 weeks to the end of September, boosted by favourable weather comparatives and "strong" growth across the business, especially online, where LFL sales grew 46% to £19.9m.

Hargreaves Lansdown ticked up after saying it enjoyed a strong start to its new financial year, with solid levels of net new business flows and assets under administration swelling 3.5% over the first quarter or 21% over the same period last year.

Going the other way, Mondi tanked after warning that full-year profits will be below expectations, while Ibstock fell after saying Wayne Sheppard plans to retire in 2018 after 22 years with the group, including the last two as chief executive.

Retailer Next was in the red after Morgan Stanley cut its stance on the stock to 'underweight' from 'equalweight'.

Countryside Properties ticked higher after revealing a 28% rise in home completions for the year to 30 September.

Wood Group also lost a little ground despite being awarded a new multi-million dollar contract by Total.

Recruiter PageGroup was also weaker even as it said profit in the third quarter rose, while subprime lender Provident Financial was under the cosh as Barclays downgraded the stock to 'underweight' ahead of its third-quarter update on Friday.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,533.81 -0.06%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 20,167.78 0.11%
techMARK (TASX) 3,545.49 0.37%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Whitbread (WTB) 4,028.00p 3.41%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,928.00p 3.32%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,401.00p 3.09%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,289.00p 2.87%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 623.50p 2.55%
Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) 7,685.00p 1.99%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,379.00p 1.50%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,611.00p 1.32%
St James's Place (STJ) 1,130.00p 1.25%
Unilever (ULVR) 4,416.00p 0.99%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Mondi (MNDI) 1,926.00p -7.80%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,210.00p -2.94%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,366.50p -2.15%
WPP (WPP) 1,372.00p -1.93%
ITV (ITV) 173.70p -1.47%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 7,430.00p -1.39%
Next (NXT) 5,050.00p -1.27%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,569.00p -1.14%
Merlin Entertainments (MERL) 463.60p -0.98%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 66.50p -0.89%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Dunelm Group (DNLM) 745.00p 6.28%
IP Group (IPO) 138.70p 4.84%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 1,178.00p 3.88%
IWG (IWG) 327.00p 3.58%
Aldermore Group (ALD) 245.90p 3.10%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 226.70p 2.72%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 399.60p 2.49%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 337.30p 2.40%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 218.40p 2.10%
Great Portland Estates (GPOR) 613.00p 2.08%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Pagegroup (PAGE) 477.10p -9.21%
Capita (CPI) 544.50p -4.39%
Provident Financial (PFG) 800.50p -4.30%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 264.30p -3.58%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 627.50p -2.71%
Hays (HAS) 190.00p -2.26%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 221.50p -2.21%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 490.50p -2.10%
FirstGroup (FGP) 113.00p -2.09%
Aggreko (AGK) 893.00p -2.08%

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