London pre-open: Cautious start expected after 'fiscal cliff' comments

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LONDON (ShareCast) - The FTSE 100 index is expected to open broadly flat on Friday morning as investors show caution following some mixed statements from US politicians on the 'fiscal cliff' last night.

City sources predict that the Footsie (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) will open just a couple of points lower than yesterday's close of 5,870. Market analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets said this morning: "Even though equity markets hit three-month lows in mid-November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) we remain on course for the sixth monthly rise in a row, though we still remain below the September highs."

Politicians back and forth in 'fiscal cliff' talks

"Talks in the US over how to avoid the fiscal cliff have begun, as has the political bickering that is likely to drag them out all the way to the January 1st deadline," said market analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.

"European stock markets are expected to open slightly lower this morning as discussions once again turned sour between the two major parties. Early indications suggest the parties are far from in agreement in many areas, which was confirmed by House Speaker John Boehner who claimed no substantive progress had been made," he said.

US Republican Speaker of the House Boehner said on Wednesday that he was "optimistic that we can continue to work together to avert this crisis sooner rather than later." However, speaking to reporters in Washington yesterday, Boehner quashed earlier optimism by saying that "there is a real danger of going off the fiscal cliff" unless Democrats "get serious about real spending cuts".

In domestic news, UK consumer confidence measured by GfK (Xetra: 587530 - news) surged to an 18-month high in November, rising to -22 from -30 the month before. Consensus estimates were for no change.

There's plenty of other economic data for investors to digest today, including: Eurozone unemployment rate figures; Eurozone inflation; Canadian GDP and US personal consumption expenditure. Meanwhile, today will also see the German parliament vote on the latest Greek rescue package.

More space let at British Land (LSE: BLND.L - news) 's West End development

Real estate (Euronext: SRE.NX - news) investment group British Land has let 24,392 square foot of office space at its new West End development at 10 Portman Square, the company announced on Friday.

The news means that British Land's Central London committed development programme is now 57% pre-let.

Latin America-focused oil and gas group GeoPark Holdings (Other OTC: GPRKF.PK - news) announced on Friday that it has put into production a new oil well in the Konawentru oil field in Chile (Berlin: G4R.BE - news) , following successful drilling and testing.

The initial production rate is around 700 barrels of oil per day but the company said that further production history will be need to work out stabilised flow rates.

African low-cost airline fastjet carried more than 900 paying passengers of its first day of commercial flight operations yesterday, achieving an aver booked load factor of 78 per cent.

The company said that future demand for seats on the two initial routes - from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, and Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - is currently "far outstripping supply".

BC