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Investment market update

Early Trading

UK stocks are expected to open lower this morning as Asian shares took a step back this morning and ended lower.

World Markets

Asian stocks were trading largely lower on Tuesday following a lacklustre lead from the US overnight and as oil prices fell again.

US stocks were mixed, with the Dow Jones down, S&P flat and the NASDAQ up. Shares in Google owner Alphabet jumped more than 9% in after-hours trading, taking its value above that of Apple. The company reported net income for the last three months of 2015 of $4.92bn (£3.4bn), thanks to strong growth in online advertising revenue.

UK stocks gave up early gains despite an afternoon rally, as share falls in insurers and oil firms weighed on the index. Prudential was the biggest loser on the FTSE 100 with a 3% loss and Aviva was 1.1% lower. BP fell 2.4%, hurt by falling crude oil prices. Winners included BT Group, which rose 1.9% after it reported a 24% rise in profits. Ryanair jumped 5.5% after it said quarterly profits doubled.

Headlines

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable company after its latest earnings report. The company made a profit of $4.9bn (£3.4bn) for the fourth quarter, an increase from $4.7bn a year ago. The announcement sent its share price up as much as 9% in after-hours trading. That means that Alphabet is now worth around $568bn, compared with Apple, which has a value of $535bn.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has won the Iowa Republican caucuses, the first vote of the US 2016 presidential election. ‘Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives,’ he declared, to great applause, as he railed against Washington, lobbyists and the media. He took 28% of the Republican vote, beating his rival, the once frontrunner Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio.

The European Union said it was closer to a compromise with the UK over revised membership terms, paving the way for David Cameron to clinch an agreement from his fellow leaders later this month and campaign for Britain to stay in the bloc. After a second day of talks, EU President Donald Tusk said he is planning to send a template text today so government heads can untangle the more intractable problems at a February 18-19 summit.

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