FTSE close to record high heading into Christmas

The FTSE 100 is steady heading into the Christmas break despite a small victory for the separatist faction in the Catalonian elections with little news to spur any movement.

The blue-chip index was trading 7 points higher at 7,611 ahead of the UK stock market's early close at 12:30.

Brent crude oil slipped 0.4% to $64.64 per barrel. Copper and gold was flat at $3.19 per pound and $1,266 per ounce.

MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

US-focused plumbing company Ferguson (FERG) was up 0.8% at £54.30 as it is one of the expected beneficiaries from extensive tax cuts passed this week.

Miner BHP Billiton (BLT) said it would provide $181m in financial support to the Renova Foundation and its Brazilian iron ore mine Samarco for a clean-up operation until June 2018. The damage was caused by a dam failure in 2015 in what is considered to be one of the biggest environmental disasters in Brazil's history.

International packaging group Mondi (MNDI) agreed to acquire Powerflute, a division of Nordic Packaging and Container, for €365m. The shares nudged 0.1% higher to £18.88.

Gambling businesses GVC (GVC) and Ladbrokes Coral (LCL) agreed on a takeover offer by the former. Ladbrokes Coral shareholders will be entitled to 32.7p in cash, 0.141 ordinary GVC shares and a contingent entitlement of up to a further 42.8p. Shares in GVC retreated 2.3% and Ladbrokes gained 1.6% to 176.8p.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Clarity on a contract in the Middle East from Westminster Group (WSG) excited investors as the stock soared 67% to 15.6p. The security specialist reported the project will be completed in phases, with the initial phase expected to be worth approximately €24m per annum.

Action Hotels (AHCG) decided to delay the opening of its first hotel in Saudi Arabia due to difficult conditions in the Middle East, which concerned the market as the shares fell 3.6% to 27p.

Mercantile Ports & Logistics (MPL) rallied 12.3% to 8p after entering its second binding customer contract to manage cargo at a port and logistics facility in India.

Embattled construction company Carillion (CLLN) managed to defer the test date for its financial covenants from 31 December to 30 April, although this did little to reassure investors about its future. The stock advanced 4.1% to 17.9p on the news.

ValiRx (VAL) plummeted 20% to 5p as the market reacted to the dilution implied by a £1m shares placing at 4.25p.