Britain’s FTSE opened on a positive note, tracking gains made overnight in Asia.
The benchmark UK index of blue-chip shares inched ahead 0.11%, or six points, to 5,758 and the Mid-250 index rose 0.74%, or 79 points, to 10,816
US technology giant Apple announced bumper results overnight, with record net profits of $13 billion, well ahead of expectations. As a result, its UK-based suppliers jumped up the index. Chip supplier ARM Holdings (ARM.L) was boosted 21.5p, or 3.7%, to 602p in early Wednesday trade.
Greece faces another credit-rating cut
In Europe the possibility of a Greek default dominated the mood, as talks between the government and private bondholders on a write-down of its debt continue. The country is now facing a further ratings cut to ‘selective default’ by Standard & Poor’s.
Other stock markets in Europe gave mixed results: Germany’s DAX index increased 0.41% to 6,445, France's CAC 40 index took on 0.11% to 3,326, and the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares shed 0.38% to 1,041.
UK gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the fourth quarter will be announced at 9.30 on Wednesday morning, and are expected to show that the economy shrank by about 0.1% in the last three months of 2011.
Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets, said: ‘Total debt rose above the £1 trillion mark for the first time ever yesterday, a salutary reminder to the precarious nature of the UK’s finances.
‘As if to reinforce those concerns the International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday downgraded the growth forecast for the UK economy for this year from 1.6% to 0.6%. However, when compared to Europe we still appear to be much better off given the IMF predicted that the European economy would contract. With those growth downgrades fresh in the mind the latest UK fourth-quarter GDP numbers could not have been more badly timed.’
The US Treasury will announce its decision on interest rates in the evening after the European markets have closed. No change to its current 0.25% rate is expected.
Weir rises on acquisition
Miner Kenmare Resources (KMR.L) took on 0.5p, or 1%, to 48p on the announcement that its revenues rose 83% from $91.6 million to $167.5 million in 2011.
Ashmore (ASHM.L) took on 24.3p, or 6.7%, to 379p as the emerging market focused investment management group was upgraded to 'overweight' by Barclays.