- UK unemployment rises to 7.2 per cent
- BoE MPC vote to maintain interest rates
- US housing starts fall 16 per cent
techMARK 2,875.58 -0.22%
FTSE 100 6,796.71 0.00%
FTSE 250 16,347.33 +0.03%
The FTSE closed flat as traders digested UK unemployment data, minutes from the Bank of England's most recent meeting, alongside data out from the US.
The index recovered from an intra-day low of around 6,760p to settle just 0.28 points above its opening price of 6,796.71.
The UK unemployment rate rose to 7.2% in the three months ended in December, from 7.1% in the three months ended November, according to the Office for National Statistics. Analysts were expecting it to remain unchanged.
Some 193,000 jobs were added in the period, well below the reading of 280,000 seen in the previous month and the forecast for 250,000.
Barclays Research commented that, "although the pace of increase in employment and fall in unemployment slowed towards the end of 2013, they remain consistent with a steadily improving labour market".
"In addition, they suggest that the fall in the labour market from here onwards is likely to be more gradual than it has been since last summer."
Meanwhile, minutes from the February 5-6th Bank of England meeting showed that the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to leave interest rates at their current record-low level for the 59th month in a row.
The MPC said that while data over the next few months is likely to show that unemployment will reach its 7% threshold, "the committee judged that a degree of spare capacity remained, concentrated in the labour market".
Capital Economics commented that, "although there was not a formal vote on the new communications, the minutes were notable for the absence of any major disagreements amongst the members".
It added: "So with considerable slack still left in the labour market and all Committee members seemingly committed to the new form of guidance, we continue to think that interest rates are likely to remain on hold until late next year."
US housing starts register a sharp drop in January
US housing starts fell 16% to an annualised rate of 880,000 in January, from the previous month's reading of 1.048m, according to the Commerce Department. The consensus estimate had been for a print of 950,000.
Also in the States, final demand producer prices rose by 0.2% month-on-month in January, and 1.2% over the year, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The consensus estimate was for an increase of 0.1%.
Sports Direct jumps on quarterly sales rise
Sports Direct International shot to the top of the risers after group sales in the quarter to January 26th rose 11.2% from the previous year to £655.4m. Gross profit gained 14.6% to £280.7m during the period with growth across all its divisions including Sports Retail, Brands and Premium Lifestyle.
UK grocer WM Morrison moved higher late in the session on the back of renewed buyout speculation. According to Reuters, bankers are working on debt financing packages of around £5bn to back a potential sale.
Aerospace engineer Rolls-Royce was a high riser as it continues to recover from heavy falls last Thursday after shocking the market with its first profit warning in a decade.
Ex-dividend stock were leading the downside, with the biggest losses seen with AstraZeneca and Carnival.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sports Direct International (SPD) 767.00p +7.12%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 244.00p +4.90%
Fresnillo (FRES) 992.00p +2.48%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,000.00p +2.41%
Tesco (TSCO) 335.75p +1.83%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 100.60p +1.77%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,344.00p +1.70%
Diageo (DGE) 1,902.50p +1.68%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,052.00p +1.64%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,627.50p +1.60%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
AstraZeneca (AZN) 3,987.00p -2.58%
Carnival (CCL) 2,468.00p -2.14%
Barclays (BARC) 255.80p -2.10%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,417.00p -1.87%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 81.21p -1.56%
TUI Travel (TT.) 441.60p -1.56%
ITV (ITV) 207.70p -1.38%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,372.00p -1.33%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,330.00p -1.26%
BT Group (BT.A) 413.00p -1.22%
FTSE 250 - Risers
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 1,450.00p +5.84%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 1,215.00p +4.11%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 123.20p +3.53%
IP Group (IPO) 208.90p +3.36%
Regus (RGU) 227.50p +2.94%
National Express Group (NEX) 301.00p +2.91%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 275.40p +2.53%
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 156.60p +2.49%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 895.00p +2.46%
BH Global Ltd. USD Shares (BHGU) 11.53 +2.31%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Essar Energy (ESSR) 62.10p -7.31%
Catlin Group Ltd. (CGL) 526.50p -5.22%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 164.00p -4.04%
Evraz (EVR) 82.40p -3.91%
Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT) 1,030.00p -2.83%
Rank Group (RNK) 146.10p -2.60%
3i Group (III) 408.30p -2.44%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 471.10p -2.42%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 102.00p -2.39%
Diploma (DPLM) 742.00p -2.11%