The S&P 500 was last night on course to close above the 5,000 mark for the first time as Wall Street’s record-breaking start to the year continued.

The index – home to America’s biggest companies, from Microsoft and Apple to General Electric and Coca-Cola – has risen for five weeks in a row.

The latest rally came after December’s revised inflation figures from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics were lower than first reported.

Boom: Optimism over Artificial Intelligence and hopes that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates has sent stocks soaring on Wall Street

Boom: Optimism over Artificial Intelligence and hopes that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates has sent stocks soaring on Wall Street

Boom: Optimism over Artificial Intelligence and hopes that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates has sent stocks soaring on Wall Street

Optimism over Artificial Intelligence and hopes that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates has sent stocks soaring on Wall Street.

In London, the FTSE 100 fell 0.3 per cent, or 22.9 points, to 7572.58 and the FTSE 250 slipped 0.2 per cent, or 40.40 points, to 19062.32.

London hosted its biggest float of the year as an airline backed by BAE Systems made its debut on the stock market.

Kazakhstan’s Air Astana priced its shares at $9.50 each in a move that valued the business at £672m. 

But shares fell to $9 on a subdued first session of trading. BAE shares gained 1.2 per cent, or 14.5p, to 1209.5p.

It comes as London struggles to attract blockbuster listings having seen Cambridge-based Arm opt for New York last year. 

Arm shares soared some 60 per cent on Thursday after a bumper set of results. Shares rose 0.5 per cent yesterday, and at nearly $110 are still over double their $51 listing price.

Air Astana, which listed its shares in London and Kazakhstan, has a fleet of 50 aircraft and carries around 8m passengers every year. 

Prior to the float, BAE owned 49 per cent of the group while the rest was controlled by Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund. Britain’s biggest defence group has a 15.3 per cent stake after it sold 21.7million shares for £163million. 

Peter Foster, president and chief executive of Air Astana, said the listing ‘has created the perfect platform to raise capital while allowing both local citizens and international investors to participate in our success story’.

Watches of Switzerland chairman Ian Carter bought nearly £200,000 worth of shares in the Rolex seller. Watches of Switzerland stock rose 5.8 per cent, or 21.4p, to 393.8p.

Developer Bellway hailed signs of recovery in the property market as lower mortgage rates boost demand for new homes.

The housebuilder reported a 30 per cent slump in revenues to £1.25billion for the six months to the end of January after it sold 4,092 new homes – 1,603 down on the same period a year earlier. 

The average selling price also dipped almost 2.5 per cent to £309,300. Shares gained 1.4 per cent, or 38p, to 2848p.

There was good news for bitcoin as the world’s largest cryptocurrency hit $47,000 – a level not seen since March 2022 – as investors renewed their risk appetite following a recent sell-off.

Back on the stock market, Direct Line said incoming boss Adam Winslow will take over as chief executive next month.

He was appointed in August having led the group’s UK and Ireland general insurance business since May 2021. Shares slid 0.7 per cent, or 1.1p, to 161.7p. DS Smith extended its gains a day after the paper and packaging firm said it was approached by rival Mondi over a possible tie-up.

DS Smith shares rose 2.5 per cent, or 7.6p, to 316.2p. Mondi fell 0.6 per cent, or 8p, to 1344p

Digital 9 Infrastructure’s shares tumbled by nearly a quarter on Thursday after the data centre and wireless network investor said the sale of its prized asset will be investigated by the Icelandic anti-trust authority. 

It expected the £465million sale of its Verne Global business to Ardian France SA, agreed last November, to be approved in March. But the probe means it could take longer. The stock slid 0.8 per cent, or 0.14p, to 17.56p.

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