- Retailers in focus after Sainsbury, Mothercare, Majestic updates
- US ADP data increases taper speculation
- Central banks watched ahead of policy meetings
techMARK 2,781.64 -0.28%
FTSE 100 6,721.78 -0.50%
FTSE 250 16,001.74 -0.42%
Heavy falls in the retail sector and cautiousness among investors saw UK markets slip on Wednesday as equities retreated from a two-month high.
Meanwhile, London stocks extended losses in afternoon trade after a mixed start on Wall Street as investors digested a much stronger-than-expected ADP employment report, which increased speculation surrounding the Federal Reserve's policy meeting later this month.
"The latest ADP jobs report out of the US has added to the prospects of additional tapering from the Fed after beating expectations for December, while also getting an upward revision to its November number," said Michael Hewson, Chief Market Analyst at CMC Markets.
The FTSE 100 finished 33.67 points lower at 6,721.78 by the close of trade today, pulling back after hitting its highest level since November 4th on Tuesday.
Economic data, risk events in focus
Economic data from the Continent was making headlines today after Eurozone retail sales and German factory orders beat forecasts. Eurozone unemployment, meanwhile, was unchanged at 12.1%, as expected, though the Italian jobless rate jumped to another record high of 12.7%.
Asides from the ADP data - which is seen as a rough indicator of the official jobs report due Friday - traders in the States were also awaiting the minutes of December's Federal Reserve policy meeting scheduled for after the close.
Markets are hoping that the minutes will shed more light on the central bank's decision to begin scaling back stimulus last month and potentially give more insight into the Fed's future plans to gradually withdraw its quantitative easing programme.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, policy meetings at the Bank of England and European Central Bank will take place, with the latter likely to be closely watched after the surprise dip in Eurozone inflation revealed yesterday.
Retailers in focus: Sainsbury, Mothercare, Majestic
Sainsbury finished lower after it reported flat like-for-like (LFL) sales in the third quarter as customers held back on spending ahead of the Christmas period. While sales still managed to beat consensus forecasts, S&P Capital IQ maintained its 'sell' rating for the stock and cut its target price, saying: "We are increasingly concerned about Sainsbury's weakening balance sheet and do not see any dividend increase in fiscal year 2015."
Rival supermarket Tesco, which is due to update the market tomorrow on its performance over the festive season, was also trading in the red while Morrison edged higher. However, online grocer Ocado surged, rising nearly 12% before the close.
The share price of Mothercare dropped by over 30% after the baby products retailer said that full-year profit would come in below market forecasts as it battled against Christmas price discounting and weak trading conditions.
Wine retailer Majestic was also lower despite saying that UK store sales for the 10 weeks to January 6th were up 5.9% year-on-year as it opened its 200th store during the period. Canaccord Genuity downgraded Majestic from 'buy' to 'hold' today, saying that the stock was "up with events".
Leading the upside were banking stocks, extending gains made yesterday when data showed that funding conditions had improved in the fourth quarter of 2013. Lloyds, RBS and Barclays were higher. Barclays was boosted by upbeat comments from JPMorgan Cazenove which labelled it as a top pick in the European investment banking sector.
Insurance firm RSA also advanced after reiterating its confidence that its recent financial irregularities are isolated to its Irish business. The group attempted to reassure investors ahead of the results of an independent investigation tomorrow.
Engineering software firm AVEVA climbed strongly after UBS upgraded the software company from 'neutral' to 'buy', while home credit group International Personal Finance was hit by a Panmure Gordon downgrade from 'buy' to 'sell'.
FTSE 100 - Risers
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 100.70p +3.02%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 357.90p +2.14%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 314.80p +1.93%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 83.80p +1.56%
Standard Life (SL.) 370.90p +1.39%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 434.10p +1.38%
Aviva (AV.) 460.20p +1.32%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,626.00p +1.31%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 1,067.00p +1.14%
Sage Group (SGE) 397.50p +0.99%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 473.30p -3.60%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 773.00p -3.44%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,247.00p -2.90%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,690.00p -2.87%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 820.00p -2.73%
William Hill (WMH) 399.80p -2.54%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 360.00p -2.41%
Centrica (CNA) 330.10p -2.16%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,450.00p -2.03%
Fresnillo (FRES) 692.00p -1.91%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ocado Group (OCDO) 513.50p +11.73%
Aveva Group (AVV) 2,261.00p +6.45%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 290.30p +6.07%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 1,595.00p +4.59%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 522.00p +3.78%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 46.49p +3.10%
Telecity Group (TCY) 764.00p +2.83%
Ted Baker (TED) 2,300.00p +2.82%
Pace (PIC) 341.70p +2.71%
Foxtons Group (FOXT) 330.00p +2.48%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
International Personal Finance (IPF) 484.00p -5.10%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,948.00p -4.74%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 115.90p -3.98%
Diploma (DPLM) 715.50p -3.90%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 168.90p -3.49%
Dairy Crest Group (DCG) 542.00p -3.30%
Rightmove (RMV) 2,711.00p -3.25%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,006.00p -3.18%
De La Rue (DLAR) 855.50p -3.06%
Catlin Group Ltd. (CGL) 560.00p -2.86%