Britain's top share index was steady Wednesday, with investors keeping largely to the sidelines as the prospects for a comprehensive deal to tackle the euro zone debt crisis at a summit looked slim.
An announcement is expected after the European Union summit, although deep disagreements remain on critical aspects of the potential plan.
Impasse is my expectation. I just can't see how European leaders can agree on a plan this quickly, with so many big issues and personalities involved even if we do get some announcement, said a London-based trader.
The UK's benchmark index <.FTSE> edged up 1.74 points to 5,527.28 by 12:07 p.m., with the FTSE 100 trading just 20 percent of its average 90-day volume.
No-one's wanting to do anything, volumes are dire, said another trader, as fund managers kept their powder dry ahead of any announcement out of Europe, with possible press conferences due from around 2000 GMT.
Investors sought shelter in defensive stocks and safe-haven assets such as gold, in case an agreement in Europe could not be reached, and with the FTSE 100 having gained 12 percent in the last two weeks.
British American Tobacco
BAT's Q3 update reads as reassuring to us and testifies to the company's continued resilience and status as a defensive port in a storm, Investec said in a note.
Peer Imperial Tobacco IMT.L gained too, up 1.8 percent.
While most investors concentrated on the euro zone, data showed Britain was continuing to struggle its way out of recession, hurt by the debt crisis.
British factory orders fell at their fastest pace in a year in October and firms expected to cut output as worries about the
crisis weighed on sentiment.
Broker recommendations had a significant impact on stock moves as investors sought legitimate reasons to trade ahead of any announcement from Europe.
Marks and Spencer
British consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser
The FTSE gained some support as Wall Street futures pointed to a firmer open ahead of September U.S. durable goods orders due at 1:30 p.m., and September new home sales due at 3:00 p.m.