Pick of the early market news

A pre-Christmas lift: the FTSE 100 picked up more than 1% yesterday, rising to 5,419 points while the Dow Jones (+2.87%) and the German Dax (+3.11%) leapt considerably higher. A load of cheap money from the European Central Bank was behind the better numbers; the ECB is expected to offer three year loans at (probably) 1% to banks raising up to €250bn. Fairly amazing terms.

A quiet day for company results and news. We commence with positive contract news for Balfour Beatty. The infrastructure operator has announced an alliance with Thiess and Sinclair Knight Merz for a £535m contract for works on the Footscray to Deer Park section of the Regional Rail Link project in Melbourne, Australia.

The Melbourne rail contract win is pleasing from a number of perspectives. "Firstly," says the company, "as a global player in rail technology, we are pleased to play a part in this historical development for rail in Australia - a buoyant market where we are developing a healthy market position."

"Furthermore, it is rewarding to see our strategy in action. We have harnessed our skills and capabilities in rail as well as in Parsons Brinckerhoff to gain a position as a joint-venture partner in the design and construction of a complex rail project."

Next, HSBC Holdings has confirmed it has entered into an agreement to sell its private banking business in Japan to Credit Suisse AG and Credit Suisse Securities (Japan) Limited. Value of the gross sale assets is approximately US$2.7bn as of 31 October 2011.

Subject to regulatory approvals, the deal is expected to complete during the second quarter of 2012. "As the world's third largest economy, with significant trade flows with the rest of the world, Japan continues to be an important market for HSBC," said the company.

Lastly, Mulberry Group confirms it is appointing Bruno Guillon, 46, as chief exec from 1 March. Godfrey Davis, the current boss and chairman of Mulberry, continues as non-executive chairman after a three-month handover "to ensure a smooth transition".

Guillon joins Mulberry from Hermès Sellier SARL, the leading French luxury brand where he is MD of Hermès France. He joined Hermès in 2001 having previously worked at LVMH and Nina Ricci.

"I am delighted to be joining Mulberry and look forward to continuing the dynamic success that the Group has achieved," says Guillon. "It is a great English brand with a unique heritage and an exceptional opportunity for growth."

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