- Ukraine, China weigh heavily on market
- Eurozone PMI falls unexpectedly
- US manufacturing comes in below expectations
techMARK 2,753.98 -1.32%
FTSE 100 6,520.39 -0.56%
FTSE 250 16,019.41 -0.87%
Stocks finished firmly lower today as concerns over mounting geopolitical tensions in western Europe and fears of slowing growth in China ensured a lack of confidence amongst investors.
The FTSE 100 closed down 36.78 points at 6,520.39.
The HSBC/Markit PMI for Chinese manufacturing dropped to 48.1 this month from 48.5 in February, marking the fifth consecutive fall for the index and missing the market's estimate for 49.7.
Analysts at Capital Economics said that this is the "latest sign that slowing credit and investment growth are weighing on domestic demand".
However, they said that with no sign of stress in the labour market, "the slowdown does not yet appear to warrant a significant stimulus response".
The Eurozone composite PMI, which measures both the services and manufacturing sectors, fell from 53.3 to 53.2, as expected.
Meanwhile, the ongoing Ukraine crisis stepped up a gear over the weekend on reports of Russian troops storming more bases in Crimea following a referendum and subsequent annexation of the region last week.
Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov has now ordered the withdrawal of Ukrainian armed forces from Crimea.
G7 leaders are expected to discuss their response to the annexation as they meet for a nuclear summit in The Hague today. EU and US leaders have already imposed and extended sanctions on a number of high-ranking officials and institutions close to the Kremlin.
Speaking to the BBC, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia said the risk of war with Russia was increasing. He explained that Russian President Vladimir Putin is opposed to talking to both Ukrainian and Western powers, which poses "quite a danger for the decision-making process".
"We could only expect that he might invade," he added.
US manufacturing comes in below expectations
Markit's preliminary purchasing managers' index (PMI) for US manufacturing in March dropped to 55.5 in March from 57.1 a month earlier. While the sector was still found to be expanding - indicated by a reading above 50 - the consensus forecast was for 56.5.
Lloyds climbs on rating upgrade
Investec has upgraded its rating for Lloyds Banking Group from 'hold' to 'buy', telling investors that "it is safe to go back in the water", prompting a strong rise in the share price. "After a 10% 10-week pull-back, we again see reasonable value for a low-risk stock. Upgrade to 'buy'," the broker said.
The Royal Bank of Scotland is engaged in talks to sell its US retail banking branch, RBS Citizens, to Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal which cited people familiar with the situation.
BG Group was another strong riser as sentiment recovered somewhat after last week's announcement that 300 jobs at its Head Office were at risk following the group's decision to initiate a redundancy programme. The group was today given a lift by BNP Paribas, which upped its rating on the stock to 'outperform'.
Meanwhile, Randgold Resources and Fresnillo slumped on the renewed concerns about the situation in Russia and Ukraine, as well as the fears of an economic slowdown in China.
Hargreaves Lansdown extended last week's losses after its Chief Executive revealed that the group is considering lowering its charges later in 2014. The potential plans come after the group experienced a strong increase in the level of activity seen across its platform sector.
"We will look at all charges as we want to be competitive," he said in an interview with Investment Week. "There are one or two areas in particular we are interested in, and our charges are not locked in."
Energy giant SSE fell in line with the wider sector which declined on rumours the UK government is considering forcing companies to split up in order to improve competition.
On the second tier, technical product firm Diploma was a big faller after it told investors its final results would be adversely affected by the appreciation of sterling.
In other company news, Co-op Bank is planning to raise a further £400m through the issue of new shares
after it was discovered there would be additional costs as a result of its past failings, such as PPI mis-selling, and substandard documentation.
FTSE 100 - Risers
BG Group (BG.) 1,082.50p +1.93%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 303.60p +1.50%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 78.50p +1.46%
Diageo (DGE) 1,819.50p +1.08%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,045.00p +0.97%
Tesco (TSCO) 293.35p +0.84%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 207.70p +0.83%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 366.00p +0.74%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 305.75p +0.71%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,632.00p +0.62%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,627.00p -4.22%
Fresnillo (FRES) 852.00p -3.73%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,280.00p -3.25%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,374.00p -2.83%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,304.00p -2.59%
G4S (GFS) 233.00p -2.55%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 393.70p -2.40%
SSE (SSE) 1,475.00p -2.32%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 410.90p -2.31%
Group (VOD) 222.15p -2.22%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 57.70p +9.90%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 1,069.00p +8.53%
Infinis Energy (INFI) 244.70p +5.47%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 1,649.00p +4.10%
Computacenter (CCC) 666.00p +3.98%
Cranswick (CWK) 1,239.00p +3.94%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,884.00p +3.91%
Kentz Corporation Ltd. (KENZ) 754.50p +2.93%
Perform Group (PER) 242.00p +1.72%
Dairy Crest Group (DCG) 467.80p +1.70%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Diploma (DPLM) 701.50p -7.70%
Northgate (NTG) 531.50p -5.09%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 322.90p -4.83%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 151.30p -4.60%
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (UDG) 351.80p -4.45%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 67.10p -4.35%
BTG (BTG) 551.50p -4.09%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 134.50p -3.93%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,889.00p -3.77%
Redrow (RDW) 309.50p -3.58%