Market Report: Investors are all aboard a mining merry-go-round

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The Independent Online

Ever since Glencore International completed London's largest IPO in history back in May, talk has been persistent that the commodities trading giant could be about to splash the cash. Yesterday, however, the City was abuzz with speculation it may make a move for ENRC through a stake swap with Kazakhmys instead.

Claiming that Glencore was "unlikely to pay large takeover premiums", Nomura put forward the idea of a deal in which Kazakhmys hands over its 26 per cent holding in its fellow Kazakh digger in return for the Swiss group's zinc subsidiary, Kazzinc.

Analysts from the Japanese broker, who claimed that "in the current uncertain macro environment, executing more innovative merger-and-acquisition transactions is needed to both create value and preserve cash", added that the move "would represent a major step forward in Glencore's goal of becoming a major iron ore marketer" while Kazakhmys would "have a Central Asian target to replace the stake in its portfolio".

Traders, however, refused to get too excited about the idea, saying they were instead more interested in the oft-floated prospect of a merger between Glencore and sister group Xstrata (down 9.9p to 926.5p).

With its chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, having ruled out an approach back in June, Glencore is unable to make a bid for ENRC until the end of the year. Last night, the company closed 5.5p better off at 407.5p, while ENRC advanced 8.5p to 649p and Kazakhmys stayed at 874.5p.

As the eurozone dominated yet again, fed-up traders were fruitlessly searching for new topics of conversation. Even though reports of an agreement between France and Germany to expand the bailout fund were being played down, the FTSE 100 still managed to jump up 40.14 points to 5,450.49, shrugging off Moody's' decision on Tuesday to cut Spain's credit rating.

ARM Holdings was among the companies in the red after Apple missed expectations with its fourth-quarter figures late on Tuesday. This moved the chip designer – whose technology is used in a lot of the US giant's products – down 11p to 580.5p, though fans of the Cambridge-based group pointed out that Apple's figures were affected by consumers waiting for last Friday's release of the iPhone 4S.

After reheated rumours around the explorer resurfaced last week, the idea that BG Group could soon become a target continued to do the rounds yesterday as it eased up 6p to 1,358p.

Meanwhile, bid chatter returned around the water companies after Investec's Angelos Anastasiou said he still expected further takeover activity in the sector following the recent £2.41bn acquisition of Northumbrian Water.

The analyst highlighted the significant premium paid by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, as United Utilities and Severn Trent powered up 8p to 612.5p and 6p to 1,527p respectively while Pennon rose 17p to 702p.

Good news from across the Atlantic helped Ashtead to claim pole position on the FTSE 250. The hire company shifted up 9p to 159.8p after its American peer United Rentals smashed expectations with its third-quarter figures and predicted 2012 would see a jump in construction activity.

At the opposite end, Home Retail's week was only getting worse with the Homebase owner extending its losses over the past three sessions to more than 20 per cent. The retailer's latest fall of 16.88 per cent to 99.5p came after admitting its first-half profit had plummeted 70 per cent.

In a busy session for results, recent chatter that Sports Direct would impress with its pre-close trading proved accurate, with the retailer seeing an 11.5 per cent sales jump in the nine weeks to 25 September. However, given that the group – owned by Newcastle United chief Mike Ashley – had previously climbed nearly 17 per cent in just 10 days, investors chose to bank profits and it declined 8.1p to 229.6p.

Coal of Africa was boosted up 11.62 per cent to 55.25p on the Alternative Investment Market after a suspension of its water-use licence for its Vele Colliery in South Africa was lifted, with the digger saying that as a result it was likely to produce its first coking coal early next year.

Meanwhile, Bowleven was pegged back 5.5p to 109.5p in response to the explorer's successful completion of a placing to raise around £80m, cash which the explorer is set to use to develop its assets off the coast of Cameroon.

Global Brands lost a fifth of its share price, slipping 0.38p to 1.5p, after admitting Domino's Pizza was struggling to catch on in Switzerland. The group – which owns the franchise for the pizza delivery company in the country, as well as in Luxembourg and Liechtenstein – revealed that the number of prospective franchise owners coming forward had been smaller than expected.