ANOTHER CUT IN US INTEREST RATES?

Interest rates in the United States are expected to be reduced again today. It is reported from Washington that most analysts are expecting the Federal Open Market Committee to cut the key federal funds rate by 50 basis points - from 4.5pc to 4pc.

The FOMC began its meeting at about 2pm London time, with the outcome expected later this evening. In forecasting another half-percentage point cut, analysts are pointing to a sharp decline in the US jobs market, continuing deterioration in most consumer confidence indicators and further contraction in the manufacturing sector.

The FOMC is also expected to reiterate that the balance of risks remain weighted towards economic weakness. But the London Stock Exchange - perhaps in anticipation of a Wall Street reduction or more likely in determination to rally from last night's 11th-hour nosedive - remained in positive territory, with both the FTSE-100 index and the techMAR! K continuing to maintain their advantages throughout the day.

Cisco reseller Dimension Data maintained its spot towards the top of the FTSE-100 leaderboard with a 25.25p rise to 315.5p. Solid results saw the company's interim pre-tax pre-exceptional profit up from $95.1m last year to $159.6m. But the real boost for the market came from the firm's reassuring noises on the second-half pipeline and prospects for the full year - especially as some had feared it would caution on visibility going forward.

Other blue-chip software issues were also in positive territory, with Misys putting on 22.5p to 557.5p and ARM Holdings adding 14.75p to 349.75p as Goldman Sachs, despite retaining its "market performer" rating, looked to tur! n more positive on valuation grounds.

With an eye on Thursday's results, Marconi moved up 20p to 370.5p, with Schroder Salomon maintaining its 'buy' advice and 500p price target in a preview today. Lehman Brothers also highlighted the stock's attractions.

With interest rates on the menu, most of the banks were also enjoying their place at the head of the table. HSBC juggernauted 35.5p to 875, Abbey National accelerated 32p to 1287, Royal Bank of Scotland climbed 23p to 1635p and Alliance & Leicester added 15.5p to 797.5p. Not far behind were Lloyds TSB, up 9.5p to 739p, Bank of Scotland, up 2.5p to 828.5p, and Bradford & Bingley, up 2p to 307p.

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