Market overview: The Footsie finishes down 29

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LONDON (ShareCast) - 1630: Close FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) closed down 29 points at 5,925. Concerns over the US fiscal cliff pulled stocks into the red in afternoon trade ahead of budget talks between Barack Obama and congressional leaders. Corporate news this side of the Pond was thin on the ground today so political brinkmanship Stateside continued to dominate market sentiment. 'As today has gone on, it has become more and more likely that the fiscal cliff may actually occur as rumours circle that there has been very little ground made in terms of finding compromise within the two parties,' according to research analyst Joshua Mahony from Alpari.

1450: US stocks have started lower ahead of fiscal cliff talks this afternoon between Obama and congressional leaders, as investors shrugged off forecast-beating economic figures. The Chicago purchasing managers' index (PMI) increased to 51.6 in December from 50.4 in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) . Consensus forecasts were for a 51.0 reading. Pending home sales increased by in November, following a 5.2 per cent gain the year before. Expectations were for a 1.0 per cent rise.

1320: London's benchmark index has dropped to an intraday low and is trading down 37 points at 5,917 before the US open in an hour's time. Sentiment has been dampened by the news that Q3 French economic growth was revised lower to 0.1 per cent, from an earlier estimate of 0.2 per cent. Analysts were expecting no change.

1137: The FTSE 100 has dropped firmly into negative territory and is trading down 22 points at 5,933. Mining stocks in London are now providing a drag after a strong start earlier, with Vedanta, Polymetal and ENRC among the worst performers. US stock futures are pointing to a weak start today; while investors will be keeping a close eye on the Chicago PMI and pending homes sales figures, the focus will undoubtedly remain on the fiscal cliff, with a meeting between Barack Obama and congressional leaders scheduled for later today.

1020: Oil and gas group Ruspetro has seen shares surge after Russian authorities granted the company a licence extension for its Palyanovsky Block. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation said that if Ruspetro complies with new regulations on gas utilisation, the newly extended licence, currently due to expire in December 2015, would be extended for the economic life of the field, currently indicated to be 2063, upon review at the end of 2105. Shares are up nearly 11 per cent at 82p.

0937: The Footsie has now erased gains and is flat at 5,954. Asian markets have closed higher with Japan's Nikkei finishing its final session of 2012 up around 0.7 per cent (Japanese markets are closed on Monday). This means that the index has risen nearly 23 per cent this year, its best annual performance since 2005.

0904: Publishing group and information provider Reed Elsevier (LSE: REL.L - news) has announced that it is to commence an irrevocable, non-discretionary programme to repurchase shares up to the value of 100m pounds over the next two months based on a number of disposals which are well progressed. Shares are up 0.1 per cent this morning.

0815: The FTSE 100 has opened higher this morning on the back of hopes that the US fiscal cliff can be averted. Markets were nervous yesterday after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that 'nothing's happening' in regards to talks to avert automatic spending cuts and tax increases. However, Obama is to meet congressional leaders today while Republican leaders will reconvene on Sunday evening, the first House of Representatives Sunday session in more than two years. 'This provides a very small timescale for the resolution of the fiscal cliff and thus there is very little room for manoeuvre after months of negotiations and political posturing. The final game of brinkmanship is now reliant upon the Democrats producing a piece of legislation which is likely to be approved by the HoR,' said analysts at Alpari this morning. The FTSE 100 is up 21 points at 5,975.