London's FTSE 100 looked on course to finish the week with a flourish, racking up a 33.4 point gain to 6,576.85 by midday on Friday with comments from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke that the US economy still needs monetary stimulus engendering positive sentiment among investors.
Excitement surrounding potential corporate activity was a key theme for the day, with life insurer Phoenix (PHNX) rising 51p or 8% to 704p. In a short-but-sweet response to yesterday's press speculation, the board confirmed it was in talks to merge Phoenix with Swiss Re's (SRENH: VX) Admin Re business. A deal would result in Swiss Re taking a minority stake in the £1.47 billion cap, which we highlighted as a Shares Play of the Week on 9 May.
Heading up the FTSE All-Share leaderboard however was industrial controls and software group Invensys (ISYS), where a long-mooted buyout looks a better bet after the company confirmed talks with Schneider Electric (SCHN:PA) over a 505p per share takeover. That manufactured a 15% Invensys jump to 506p. Click here to read our story.
Elsewhere, credit agency Experian (EXPN) fell 1.8% to £11.77 after flagging weak economic conditions in Brazil, a factor central to our negative stance on the stock. At group level, the company achieved 7% organic growth rate in the three months to 30 June.
A 7% rise in net fee income has reignited investor interest in recruitment consultant Robert Walters (RWA). The stock jumped 4% to 221p upon publication of its second quarter trading update. A cautious outlook statement means it could be too early to call the start of new rally in staffing agencies.
Strong orders in March sparked a market rethink over science research kit manufacturer Oxford Instruments (OXIG). An upbeat steer that its 14-Cubed growth plan is back on track saw buyers swoop, lifting the shares more than 10% to £13.77.
Compound wafers specialist IQE (IQE:AIM) jumped close on 8% to 24.5p as recent support from City analysts bore fruit. Investors will get a steer on progress when the Cardiff-based firm reports a trading update on 24 July.
Cashflow concerns weighed on risk manager Lombard Risk Management (LRM:AIM) despite its relatively upbeat update. The market is clearly concerned over the need to raise an extra £2.6 million to fuel growth, slicing over 4% off the shares to 11.25p.
Building and engineering products play Alumasc (ALU) surged 15.2% higher to 106p on news annual taxable profits will be ahead of expectations. In a year-end trading statement, the £33 million cap said its building products division outperformed the UK construction market with near-20% sales growth in the year to June and flagged a strong order book of £44 million. Important new contract wins in the engineering products division should also benefit next year's numbers.
Property developer and investor Quintain Estates (QED) edged up 0.6% to 86.5p after its GPRL joint venture with Knight Dragon secured permission to build some 1,600 homes on its riverside Peninsula Quays district in Greenwich.
Charlemagne Capital (CCAP:AIM) put on 8.3% at 11p as investors responded to news net management fees of US$11.9 million were generated in the six months to June, 10.2% ahead of the previous six months.
Italy-focused oil firm Mediterranean Oil & Gas (MOG:AIM) fell 10.2% to 6.62p after revealing further delays to bringing its Ombrina Mare project on stream. The Italian authorities are now looking for the firm to complete an 'Autorizzazione Integrata Ambientale' (AIA), an integrated environmental authorisation for the field, having previously stated this would not be necessary.