FTSE 100 edges up in weak Santa rally

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The FTSE 100 edged up in one of the weakest Santa rallies since the financial crisis, with the impasse over the US "fiscal cliff" talks weighing on sentiment.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) opened down 0.01pc before rising 0.2pc in early trading to 5956.20.

Volumes were thin, with the London market due to close early for the Christmas holiday.

Mining group Xstrata (Other OTC: XSRAF - news) was the biggest riser, rising 1pc on news that it had lifted its initial capital spending estimate for the undeveloped Frieda River copper mine in Papua New Guinea by $300m to $5.6bn, according to a minority partner in the project.

Australia-listed Highlands Pacific said it had received a feasibility study from Xstrata that indicated the new estimate and also cited a proposed switch from hydroelectric power to gas if the project proceeds.

Admiral (LSE: ADM.L - news) , the general insurer, was the biggest faller, dropping 1.8pc.

The FTSE 100 has risen by around 7pc this year, but the rally has stalled this month due to uncertainty over $600bn of US spending cuts and tax increased that kick in next month and threaten to hurt the economy.

Lawmakers and President Barack Obama have abandoned talks to prevent this "fiscal cliff" until after Christmas.

"It's all about the US fiscal cliff issue," said Victor Shum, managing director at IHS Purvin & Gertz.

"The chances are that we will get a deal between the White House and the Republicans, but the fact that (House of Representatives speaker John) Boehner failed to get members to support his plan is worrying."

The FTSE 100 has risen 1.4pc so far since the start of December. This is the second smallest Santa Rally since the 2008 when it fell 1.67pc. Last year the index rose just 0.13pc in the same period. It rose 2.99pc in 2009 and 8.69pc in 2010.

In Europe the CAC 40 (Paris: ^FCHI - news) in Paris slid 0.1pc but Frankfurt was shut for Christmas Eve. Like London, both markets will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and will reopen for business on Thursday.

Most European bond markets were also shut.

Asian markets rose in quiet pre-Christmas trade after big losses in the previous session on jitters over the US economy.

The yen sank against the euro and the dollar after Japan's incoming prime minister again called on the central bank to take further steps to ease monetary policy, warning he would change the law to make sure it followed his instructions.

Hong Kong gained 0.2pc, Shanghai was 0.43pc higher and Seoul rose 0.11pc. Sydney ended 0.25pc. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday and will resume trading on Tuesday.