- FTSE closes down 3.93 at 6,685.52
- Ukraine tensions cause further concern
- UK retail sales disappoint
- Industrial production rises
techMARK 2,851.60 +0.23%
FTSE 100 6,685.52 -0.06%
FTSE 250 16,481.45 +0.18%
UK stocks eased back from earlier losses to end today's session only just in the red, amid concerns over Ukraine, banking woes, and poor UK retail sales data.
The FTSE 100 closed down 3.93 points at 6,685.52.
Geopolitical tensions were ongoing today after Ukraine boosted its defence forces ahead of a meeting between its Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and US President Barack Obama taking place tomorrow.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has rejected offers to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin until Moscow considers US proposals on the turmoil in Ukraine.
Russia is reportedly drafting a counter offer to a US proposal to "de-escalate" the crisis. Washington has demanded that Moscow pull back its troops from Crimea and end attempts to annex the region. Kerry said Moscow's military intervention in Crimea had made any negotiations extremely difficult.
Carney says BoE will never fully unwind QE
In their testimony before the Treasury Select Committee members of the Monetary Policy Committee apparently implicitly indicated that the central bank may never fully unwind its quantitative easing or, at least, that it might be a very drawn out affair.
The governor said that he did not expect the BoE to begin scaling back QE until there had been "several adjustments" in interest rates, signalling that it could take years.
February UK retail sales shift into reverse gear
In other macro news, British retail sales went into reverse last month, casting fresh doubt over consumers' ability to keep driving the economic recovery.
Like-for-like sales in February fell 1% versus the same month a year ago, when they rose 2.7%, according to monthly figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and accountants KPMG.
Total sales rose 0.7% against a 4.4% increase in February last year and online non-food sales rose 14.3%.
Meanwhile, UK industrial production expanded by 0.1% month-on-month (2.9% year-on-year) during January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The consensus estimate had been for a reading of 0.2% (2.9% on year).
Sports Direct in top spot as banks head lower
Sports Direct was the day's top riser, gaining strongly after shareholders approved a huge £65m bonus plan for founder Mike Ashley. The payout is dependent on the company achieving earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of £330m in 2014 and £410m in 2015 - the latter being higher than the figures currently predicted by analysts.
International Consolidated Airlines Group climbed after Jefferies raised its target price from 410p to 510p and retained a 'buy' recommendation.
Aviva continued higher after last week's upbeat results, with today's gains driven by RBC Capital, which upped its target price from 400p to 550p and upgraded the stock to 'neutral', and Nomura, which increased its target price from 489p to 625p and reiterated a 'buy' recommendation.
Meanhile, banking stocks including Barclays and RBS were under the weather as alleged forex manipulation continued to make headlines today amid a Treasury Select Committee grilling of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.
Johnson Matthey fell after Liberum Capital reduced its target price from 3,500p to 3,340p, downgrading the stock to 'hold'.
Looking ahead to Wednesday
Strong investor interest in Poundland means the British discount chain is likely to be valued near the top end of its flotation price range tomorrow.
Institutional investors are thought to have been queuing up to buy shares
in the group, which has about 500 stores in the UK selling items for £1.
Economic announcements due out include US Crude Oil Inventories, MBA Mortgage Applications, the Treasury Budget Statement and EU Industrial Production.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sports Direct International (SPD) 838.00p +3.58%
Aviva (AV.) 523.50p +2.75%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 444.00p +2.52%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,953.00p +2.33%
Next (NXT) 6,745.00p +2.27%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 381.90p +1.57%
Royal Mail (RMG) 598.00p +1.53%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,491.00p +1.36%
National Grid (NG.) 835.50p +1.33%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,518.00p +1.20%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 310.20p -3.00%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,096.00p -2.89%
Barclays (BARC) 236.15p -2.42%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 840.00p -2.15%
Pearson (PSON) 1,001.00p -2.05%
Schroders (SDR) 2,601.00p -1.77%
Tesco (TSCO) 314.65p -1.75%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 226.25p -1.67%
Fresnillo (FRES) 882.00p -1.56%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,829.00p -1.30%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Senior (SNR) 303.70p +5.31%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 572.00p +4.28%
Inchcape (INCH) 640.50p +4.15%
Devro (DVO) 264.00p +3.69%
Rank Group (RNK) 137.50p +3.38%
Pace (PIC) 473.30p +3.21%
Merlin Entertainments (MERL) 391.50p +3.03%
Amlin (AML) 474.50p +2.93%
Pennon Group (PNN) 772.00p +2.66%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 337.10p +2.62%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 250.00p -18.86%
Fenner (FENR) 418.40p -6.23%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 14.50p -5.04%
esure Group (ESUR) 264.60p -3.89%
Computacenter (CCC) 697.00p -2.99%
Evraz (EVR) 58.25p -2.92%
Kier Group (KIE) 1,746.00p -2.89%
Drax Group (DRX) 771.00p -2.84%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 835.00p -2.57%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 141.40p -2.42%