The FTSE 100 breached the psychological barrier of 6,500 on Monday afternoon, hitting fresh five-year highs, though gains were only slight given a barrage of mixed economic data released earlier in the session.
The fact that a number of benchmark indices around the globe are trading at (or close to) record highs also saw traders rein in their risk appetite today, given the market's impressive performance so far in 2013. Today's 0.3% increase for the FTSE 100 has extended the index's year-to-date rise to 10.3%.
Investors were clearly still reacting in a positive manner to the impressive employment report from the States released on Friday, which revealed that the US economy added 236,000 jobs in February, well ahead of the 160,000 estimate, causing the jobless rate to unexpectedly fall to 7.7%.
However, the bullish mood was tempered slightly by a number of headwinds this morning, including data from economic powerhouse China which showed that industrial production weakened in February, lending and retail sales growth slowed while inflation climbed.
Nevertheless, Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari said that traders are unlikely to get too carried away with the data "given that the Chinese Lunar New Year probably distorted the figures, meaning they're not a true reflection of how the economy is performing."
The move by Fitch Ratings to downgrade its credit rating for Italy was limiting gains today. Fitch has lowered Italy to 'BBB+' from 'A-' and kept the outlook at 'negative', saying that last month's inconclusive elections make it unlikely a stable new government can be formed in the next few weeks. A worse-than-forecast economic growth figure was also dampening sentiment surrounding Italy, causing bond yields to climb on the secondary debt market.
Elsewhere in the Eurozone, Germany reported a larger-than-expected increase in exports in January, while French industrial output dropped more than expected.
Not to be lost sigh of either, at one point in today´s session Sterling dropped below 1.49 versus the US currency unit. It may find some support at the so-called 61.8 per cent Fibonacci retracement of the move higher which started in 2009 Commerzbank says. Analysts at the German bank however expect losses longer-term to take the pair towards the 2010 low, at 1.4259/29.
FTSE 100: Banks decline on calls for operations to be divided
Barclays and RBS were both heavy fallers after the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards called for British banks to be forced to divide its routine retail operations from investment operations. The panel is looking for ways to bring about banking reform as part of the Banking Reform Bill, which is set to be debated in parliament at the start of next week.
Cyclical sectors on the whole were hit by the disappointing economic figures from China this morning. Mining counterparts Evraz and Kazakhmys both made suffered significant declines.
Accountancy software giant Sage fell sharply after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded its rating for the stock from 'neutral' to 'underperform'. The broker said in a research note that investors should remain cautious as to whether Sage can pull off its move to cloud computing.
Meanwhile, drinks company SABMiller rose following a reported target upgrade from RBC Capital markets, while sector peer Diageo was higher after saying an overhaul of its global supply operations will lead to cost savings of £60m per annum over the next three years.
Oilfield services group Petrofac was slightly higher after being awarded a project management contract by Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) for technical assistance and supervision for the Lakach project offshore Mexico.
FTSE 250: Anite dives on after third-quarter statement
plunged after an underwhelming third-quarter trading update. Investec downgraded its rating on the stock from 'buy' to 'hold', saying that the company would need a strong fourth quarter to meet its full-year forecasts.
Ophir shares tanked with analysts saying that the stock has hit technical resistance in the form of its primary downtrend line.
Raven Russia rose after unveiling its financial results for the year ended December 31st, which revealed that underlying operating profit rose 63% to $112.1m, underpinned by profitable acquisitions. The Russia-focused property investment company reported that net rental and related income for the year increased by 49% to $136.5m.
Betting group Ladbrokes has unveiled plans to extend its relationship with Playtech, the online gaming software company, as part of the former's 're-invigoration' of its Digital business, pushing shares in both groups higher. Daniel Stewart & Company said the deal could mark a change in fortunes for Ladbrokes.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Melrose Industries (MRO) 271.10p +4.03%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,095.00p +2.43%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,474.00p +2.40%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 268.50p +2.09%
Pearson (PSON) 1,187.00p +1.89%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,628.00p +1.85%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 723.50p +1.69%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,909.00p +1.60%
Experian (EXPN) 1,163.00p +1.48%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 346.90p +1.43%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Evraz (EVR) 260.90p -2.47%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 520.50p -2.25%
Barclays (BARC) 311.50p -2.23%
Sage Group (SGE) 341.90p -2.15%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 832.50p -1.77%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 301.30p -1.60%
GKN (GKN) 279.00p -1.38%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 266.60p -1.22%
Carnival (CCL) 2,502.00p -1.07%
WPP (WPP) 1,077.00p -1.01%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Raven Russia Ltd (RUS) 74.95p +14.69%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 239.80p +6.48%
Regus (RGU) 157.90p +5.13%
Dignity (DTY) 1,430.00p +4.69%
WH Smith (SMWH) 733.00p +3.97%
Playtech Ltd. (PTEC) 570.00p +3.35%
Computacenter (CCC) 502.00p +3.16%
EnQuest (ENQ) 140.60p +3.00%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 265.70p +2.90%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 114.70p +2.87%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Anite (AIE) 130.00p -16.13%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 450.00p -13.79%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 465.00p -4.02%
RPS Group (RPS) 248.00p -3.88%
Homeserve (HSV) 235.00p -3.69%
ICAP (IAP) 330.20p -3.62%
Alent (ALNT) 377.00p -3.58%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 31.30p -3.48%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 788.50p -3.07%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 52.45p -2.42%