FTSE falters as Icahn's words resonate

Heading into the close the FTSE 100 is down two points, as it struggles to jump on the wave of US optimism in the afternoon trading session.

Confidence is fickle, and markets found that precious commodity in short supply this morning. Traders appeared flustered by US city sage Carl Icahn’s warning of equity overvaluation. On the back of the ECB’s surprise interest-rate cut, ZEW economic sentiment figures have fallen away, adding to the wobble caused by the US markets' weak finish.

Battle of the budget airlines

easyJet has posted some great figures, with full-year profits up 51% and coming in at the top of analysts’ expectations. This is all the more impressive when compared to the truly terrible numbers announced by bitter rival Ryanair. Gloating rights belong to Stelios this year, as Michael O’Leary watches him pocket his slice of the £175 million extra dividend. There will be many sitting a little less comfortably in the City today, following the Bank of England’s policy notes advice. It states that bankers who fail to identify or report colleagues' poor behaviour promptly should have their bonuses deferred. Considering the volume of cases that regulators are reviewing around the globe, this could add up to a sizable number. Rio Tinto has continued reorganising its portfolio, with the sale of 19% of its stake in aluminium manufacturer Constellium raising $330 million.

Words of caution on equities

Any investment guru who has created a $20 billion personal fortune from investing in the markets is worth listening to, and Carl Icahn’s words of caution about over-valuation in the equity markets look to have been taken to heart by US investors. Coinciding with these comments, all three of the major US indices are nearing big psychological levels, giving investors every reason to pause and reassess. Yesterday's 'risk-off' mentality might not last long, as Thursday is pencilled in as the day when dovish Janet Yellen will be confirmed as the next Fed Chairwoman. But before that, President Obama is speaking at a Wall Street event tonight. He is not expected to come out with any surprises, but he wouldn’t be the first politician to spook the markets by saying something out of leftfield.

Oil rally peters out

The ten-day rally in Brent crude seems to have completely run out of steam following its aggressive bounce from $103. How long it can loiter at these levels, with so many conflicting statements coming out of the US over Fed policy, is open to debate. The progressive comments that have emanated from China over the last couple of days have hinted towards a lighter touch in terms of regulating smaller businesses, and for the time being at least have given Copper a reason to arrest its fall. As good as this news might be for Chinese businesses, it appears unlikely to warrant a shift in the market's longer-term direction.

EUR/USD clinging on

EUR/USD continues to hang onto the 1.3500 level, but the longer it does so the more desperate it looks. This afternoon sees FOMC members Dudley and Evans speaking. Although both have historically been dovish, the picture created by the Fed has been anything but clear of late. AUD/USD looks to have found support around the 0.9300 level, as speculation over further RBA interest-rate cuts continues to circulate in the currency markets.

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