FTSE stocks waver as Middle East tensions ease

London’s stock market opened cautiously on Monday, with investors closely monitoring developments in the Middle East. The FTSE 100 index started the day down 24.47 points, 0.3%, at 7,377.67. Its counterpart, the FTSE 250, was down 37.88 points, 0.2%, at 16,994.85, while the AIM All-Share dropped 2.22 points, 0.3%, to 680.71.

Optimism prevailed as tensions in the Middle East, though simmering, did not escalate over the weekend. Hamas’ release of hostages and the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza from the Egyptian border provided some relief, according to Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

However, the Pentagon’s decision to enhance US military readiness in response to recent escalations by Iran and proxy forces loomed over the market. In the past fortnight, investors had flocked to safe-haven gold, but on Monday, gold prices dipped to $1,978.55 an ounce, down from $1,996.01 at Friday’s close. Similarly, Brent oil prices fell to $91.60 a barrel early in London, sliding from $93.20 late Friday.

In London stocks, geotechnical engineering firm Keller saw a 9.5% surge in the FTSE 250. The company reported positive trading in Q3, exceeding market expectations based on its robust first-half performance. Keller’s CEO, Michael Speakman, attributed this success to operational enhancements and the dedication of the company’s workforce.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company Indivior rose by 7.0% after reaching a $385 million settlement in the In re Suboxone Antitrust Litigation. CEO Mark Crossley expressed satisfaction with the resolution, emphasizing its positive impact on stakeholders and Indivior’s focus on patients suffering from opioid use disorder and mental health illnesses globally.

In contrast, AIM-listed Mission Group, owner of digital marketing and communications agencies, plummeted by 55%. The company reported unexpected challenges in recent trading, especially in Consumer & Lifestyle, Property, and Technology & Mobility sectors. Client losses and reduced spending forced Mission Group to adopt a cautious outlook for the second half of 2023. An operational review is underway to address the situation.

Investors are expected to remain vigilant amid the Middle East uncertainties, with market sentiment hinging on global geopolitical developments.