The FTSE 100 dropped into the red on Monday, pulling back after hitting a three-week high the previous session, as heavy falls from natural gas giant BG Group and ongoing concerns about Syria pressured stocks lower.
London's benchmark index finished 16.59 points lower at 6,530.74, falling 0.25% from Friday's close of 6,547.33 which was its highest closing price since August 14th.
Syria continues to be in focus this week ahead of a vote by US Congress over whether or not to proceed with a military attack after last month's alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar Al-Assad's regime. Tensions at the G20 Summit escalated last week after Vladimir Putin said Russia would "assist" Syria if it was attacked by the US, just as President Barack Obama was trying to rally for support from global leaders for an intervention.
Talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also caught the headlines this morning after Hague said the objectives and efforts of the US and UK "remain closely aligned". Kerry said that the relationship between the two countries was not affected by the UK's decision not engage in a military attack, but said that "the risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting".
"Despite the UK watching the Syria affair from the side-lines after the Prime Minister failed to secure parliamentary support for action, fallout from this vote will still be felt in the UK markets with oil prices
and a potential flight to quality affecting both equity and Gilts," said Financial Sales Trader Alex Conroy.
Uncertainty regarding Federal Reserve monetary policy also prompted traders to adopt a cautious approach in the aftermath of Friday's disappointing jobs report. A worse-than-expected rise in non-farm payrolls in August sparked speculation that the US central bank could hold off from tapering its quantitative easing (QE) programme until later on in the year. However, the unemployment rate fell last month from 7.4% to 7.3%.
Chinese exports rise, Japan GDP revised up
Asian markets performed well overnight after Chinese trade and inflation numbers brightened the third-quarter outlook for the world's second-largest economy. Chinese exports rose by a stronger-than-expected 7.2% in August and imports jumped by 7%, while the annual rate of consumer price inflation eased from 2.7% to 2.6%.
Writing in Monday's Financial Times Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that his country will stay the course on sustainable growth, by continuing to promote reforms, with an aim of meeting its 7.5% lower bound for gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year.
Meanwhile, second-quarter GDP estimates in Japan were revised higher from 0.6% to 0.9%, as confidence grows in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's so-called 'Abenomics'. While this was slightly lower than predictions, this data - along with the news that Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics - gave the Nikkei 225 index a strong boost.
FTSE 100: BG drops after cutting production guidance
Oil and gas group BG was a heavy faller after lowering its 2014 production milestones due to the instability in Egypt, delays to the start-up of production in Norway and low natural gas prices in the US.
Sugar and food group Tate & Lyle wasn't far behind after UBS downgraded the stock from 'neutral' to 'sell', saying that its current valuation is too high and does not reflect that "sucralose prices continue to decline as 'generic' competitors improve product quality and access greater scale".
Food ingredients peer and retail group Associated British Foods was also lower despite saying a strong finish to the year from Primark will help it deliver adjusted operating profit ahead of expectations for the second half. Instead, the market was focusing on comments about low EU sugar prices next year.
Mining stocks were putting in a mixed performance despite the strong data from top metals user China. Analysts at Citigroup said today that mining stocks could benefit from "additional short-term price momentum in the sector on positive rhetoric" following the category's underperformance so far this year compared with the UK market. "However, valuations are now looking more fully priced and we think the rally will fade into year end." The bank named Rio Tinto and Glencore Xstrata as its favoured stocks in the UK diversified mining sector, both of which were making gains today.
GlaxoSmithKline declined after confirming it has reached an agreement to sell its Lucozade and Ribena brands to Japanese firm Suntory Beverage & Food for £1.35bn in cash. The company said that now is the right time to sell "as we increase the focus of our Consumer Healthcare business and execute the delivery of our late stage pipeline of pharmaceuticals and vaccines".
FTSE 250: Icap and CSR lead gains
ICAP is in talks about a settlement over its role in the Libor rate-rigging scandal which could see it pay about £70m ($109m) to British and US regulators, Sky News reported.
Broker Liberum lited its target on CSR to buy, with a 550p price target.
FTSE 100 - Risers
ARM Holdings (ARM) 917.50p +2.80%
TUI Travel (TT.) 347.40p +2.72%
Aviva (AV.) 399.80p +2.25%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,635.00p +2.19%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 76.78p +1.82%
Kingfisher (KGF) 413.20p +1.67%
ITV (ITV) 177.40p +1.66%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 193.80p +1.63%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,216.00p +1.55%
British Land Co (BLND) 557.50p +1.46%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
BG Group (BG.) 1,217.00p -5.07%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 779.50p -3.41%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 1,818.00p -1.78%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,914.00p -1.50%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,397.00p -1.34%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,052.00p -1.27%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,455.50p -1.12%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 673.00p -1.10%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 1,059.00p -1.03%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 701.10p -1.02%
FTSE 250 - Risers
ICAP (IAP) 417.80p +4.58%
CSR (CSR) 517.50p +4.55%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 328.20p +4.36%
888 Holdings (888) 146.90p +4.18%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 150.40p +3.72%
Perform Group (PER) 523.50p +3.66%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 1,810.00p +3.13%
Debenhams (DEB) 104.50p +2.96%
Halfords Group (HFD) 393.70p +2.79%
Computacenter (CCC) 538.00p +2.77%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Xaar (XAR) 760.00p -4.34%
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 122.90p -3.46%
Salamander Energy (SMDR) 125.00p -3.40%
Berendsen (BRSN) 906.50p -2.89%
Bumi (BUMI) 211.20p -2.85%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 28.36p -2.54%
Workspace Group (WKP) 430.60p -2.36%
BTG (BTG) 368.00p -2.34%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 557.00p -2.28%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 287.10p -2.18%