Market overview: FTSE ends the day flat

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LONDON (ShareCast) - 1630: Close The FTSE closed the session flat as investors await direction from the US over the 'fiscal cliff'. Miners delivered a strong performance throughout the day, led by Evraz. In the US, first-time jobless claims fell 12,000 to 350,000, while consumer confidence dropped to its lowest point in 16 weeks. With no UK announcements due out and company news expected to be thin on the ground, trading volumes are expected to continue to be light tomorrow.

1540: The FTSE is now up just three points at 5,958, tracking the losses seen across the pond in the US. In economic news, major UK firms are paying less tax than they did 12 years ago, according to a Reuters analysis of official data. This decline comes despite a rise in profits from companies. The gross operating surplus for all UK companies has risen 65% to £329bn and the economy has grown by 55% over the same period.

1450: The FTSE has come off its highs to settle back down to 19, as investors in the UK and abroad await an outcome ahead of the December 31st deadline. Obama is said to currently be en route back to Washington where he plans to meet with the opposition in an attempt to reach at least a temporary solution. Neither the Republicans or the Democrats appear prepared to make the first move.

1330: Online sale bargain-hunters have set a new Boxing Day record, Experian (Other OTC: EXPGF - news) has said, with 113m site visits recorded yesterday. The information service also revealed that 84m visits to such sites were made on Christmas Eve and another 107m were made on Christmas Day itself, an increase of 86% and 71%, respectively. James Murray, Digital Insight Manager for Experian commented: "The UK sales creep continues to advance so that now the post-Christmas sales are starting before Christmas. Five years ago we called it the January sales, before it became the Boxing Day sales, now retailers have to call it the winter sales as discounting starts earlier to encourage higher spending." The FTSE is up 30 points at 5,985.

1210: The British Bankers' Association has revealed that UK mortgage approvals climbed to their highest level since the start of the year in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) , indicating growing stability within the home loan market. Mortgage approvals rose from 33,128 in October to 33,634 the following month, with total mortgage lending of £7.7bn "above the recent monthly average". The FTSE was up 19 points at 5,973.

1115: The FTSE has remained stable throughout much of the morning, sitting in positive territory as investors await firm direction from both home and abroad. Car manufacturer Toyota has made headlines this morning, having announced plans to pay over one billion dollars in a settlement for hundreds of lawsuits involving defects on some of its cars.

1000: Steel, mining and vanadium group Evraz has moved into the top spot after receiving pre-transfer merger clearance from the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service in relation to its acquisition of an indirect controlling interest in Raspadskaya, one of Russia's largest producers of coking coal and a supplier to the Russian steel firm.

0935: Defying expectations, the FTSE has moved firmly into positive territory, up 14 points to 5,968, led by Evraz. Traders are awaiting direction from the US as the country's lawmakers meet to discuss possible solutions to the so-called 'fiscal cliff'. European markets are also higher. Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has said he will at the very least be willing to give consideration to any bill drawn up by the government. The possibility of significant monetary easing has pushed the yen to a 21-month low.

0820: The FTSE has fallen in early opening trading, with reports out from the US delivering mixed messages about the government's ability to deal with the raft of tax hikes and spending cuts coming its way. Some analysts believe that the President Barack Obama's decision to cut short his holiday to return to Washington is a positive sign, while others are saying the country is running out of time to deal with the ever-nearer fiscal cliff. Yesterday saw Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner write a letter to congressional leaders saying that he must authorise extraordinary measures to prevent the US reaching its debt ceiling of $16.4trn on December 31st. The FTSE is down five points at 5,949.