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Investment market update

Early Trading

UK stocks are expected to open slightly lower this morning, as macroeconomic matters continue to dominate the agenda.

World Markets

Asian stocks were mixed after the Federal Reserve flagged risks to the US economy and indicated it will be gradual in raising interest rates.

US stocks struggled as the Federal Reserve signalled that financial-market turmoil may pose risks to its outlook for the US economy, while largely maintaining its policy stance. Apple, the world’s most valuable company, and Boeing accounted for more than half of the 1.4% decrease in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

UK stocks closed at their highest level since 6 January as oil prices ended above $32 per barrel, boosting oil producers. Royal Bank of Scotland struggled after announcing a series of write-offs that will result in an overall loss for 2015. ARM Holdings, which makes chips for the iPhone, fell after disappointing results from Apple in the US.

Headlines

David Cameron cancelled visits to Sweden and Denmark planned for Friday in order to make a short-notice trip to Brussels to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as he seeks a deal on new European Union membership terms. The sudden move suggests that the intensity of diplomacy is increasing ahead of the February summit at which Britain hopes to secure an agreement to keep it in the 28-member bloc. Keeping to that timetable is essential if Cameron is to call a stay-or-leave referendum in June.

Roche Holding AG, Europe’s largest drugmaker, beat full-year sales estimates as demand for its new breast-cancer drugs Perjeta and Kadcyla continued to grow. Sales increased 1% to $47.3 billion, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said in a statement on Thursday.

PayPal Holdings Inc.’s fourth-quarter sales beat estimates, as it won new vendors and made mobile purchases easier, reassuring investors concerned about the company’s prospects as an independent company. After separating from EBay Inc. last year, PayPal increased its total payments volume by bringing on new merchants and enticing shoppers with a Buy button that streamlines transactions on smartphones.

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