Stocks were firmly lower on Monday as risk appetite was reduced in the face of a looming partial shutdown of the US government after a weekend of no progress in Washington.
Political instability in Italy also dampened the mood today as well as disappointing economic data from China, with falls in the heavyweight mining sector in London dragging the FTSE 100 to its lowest level in a month.
The index finished 50.44 points lower at 6,562.22 it worst level since August 30th when it ended the session at 6,412.93.
US shutdown in focus
US politicians have so far failed to agree a new spending bill and have only until midnight to reach an agreement that would allow them avert a partial government shutdown. The House of Representatives yesterday voted to tie-in a delay of the 'Obamacare' health act to its Budget 2014 proposal. It is now up to the Senate to approve the bill later today; however, the Democrats have already stated that they would not agree to such a measure.
"Markets do seem resigned to the fact that we will get a short-term shutdown in the US government, but one has to hope that once and if that happens, wiser heads will prevail and both parties in this political tug-of-war will see sense and at least pass a temporary budget," said Senior Market Analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets.
Meanwhile without an agreed increase in the debt ceiling, investors are concerned that the US could reach its borrowing limit of $16.7tn by October 17th, by which time the government could run out of cash to fulfil its debt obligations.
Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital said that a potential government shutdown comes at "an extremely fragile time" for the US economy. He said if it becomes a protracted affair, "there's a possibility the US could default which will bring out the rating agencies ready with their knives to chop the sovereign's rating," he said.
Political chaos in Italy
Italy's coalition government looks to be on the verge of collapse as five ministers from Silvio Berlusconi's People of Liberty party (PdL) on Saturday resigned from the alliance formed with Prime Minister Enrico Letta last April.
Though Berlusconi said the ministers walked out due to a government decision to raise sale taxes, Letta labelled the excuse an "enormous lie" implying that the walk out was due to Berlusconi's tax fraud conviction and an October 4th parliament vote that would ban him from holding public office.
Letta is expected to undergo a confidence vote on Wednesday with results uncertain. On the one-hand, some of Berlusconi's own party members are distancing themselves from the resignations, though Letta would need to grab votes from PdL or the far-left wing 5 Star Movement party.
FTSE 100: Miners sink sharply after Chinese data
Mining stocks declined sharply today after disappointing data from the world's top metals user, China. The HSBC China purchasing managers' index came in at 50.2 in September, significantly below estimates of 51.2 and under last month's reading of 50.1, with HSBC saying that growth is "bottoming out". Fresnillo, Glencore Xstrata, Anglo American, Antofagasta, and Rio Tinto all finished in the red.
Leading the upside was housebuilder Persimmon, bolstered by the news that the second phase of the UK government's 'Help to Buy' is being launched earlier than planned. Upbeat data on house prices and mortgage approvals also helped stocks across the sector higher today, while JPMorgan Cazenove upgraded Persimmon to 'overweight'.
Sectors such as pharmaceuticals and utilities were performing well due to their defensive characteristics. SSE, United Utilities and Centrica edged higher, along with AstraZeneca and Shire. Shire was also being helped by a JPMorgan upgrade to 'overweight'.
Similarly, High Street bookie William Hill was higher after Deutsche Bank lifted its recommendation for the shares
However, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline was heading south after revealing that it is selling its thrombosis drug brands and a related factory to South Africa's biggest generic drug maker Aspen Pharmacare for £700m. The company has decided to let go of its Arixtra and Fraxiparine brands after experiencing falling sales.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Persimmon (PSN) 1,086.00p +2.36%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,082.00p +0.84%
Centrica (CNA) 369.70p +0.74%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,634.00p +0.68%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,478.00p +0.45%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 3,215.50p +0.45%
SSE (SSE) 1,474.00p +0.41%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,278.00p +0.31%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 338.30p +0.30%
William Hill (WMH) 403.00p +0.25%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
GKN (GKN) 342.00p -2.87%
Fresnillo (FRES) 973.00p -2.70%
BAE Systems (BA.) 454.40p -2.64%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 986.00p -2.38%
Whitbread (WTB) 2,964.00p -2.18%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 378.60p -2.15%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 336.70p -2.12%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 1,024.00p -2.10%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 1,537.00p -1.85%
BP (BP.) 433.10p -1.81%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bellway (BWY) 1,315.00p +4.20%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 153.40p +4.00%
Keller Group (KLR) 1,039.00p +3.69%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 100.40p +3.51%
Computacenter (CCC) 534.50p +3.09%
Redrow (RDW) 233.00p +2.64%
Dignity (DTY) 1,450.00p +2.55%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 1,932.00p +2.33%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 308.60p +2.15%
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 270.70p +2.15%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 326.00p -3.83%
Greggs (GRG) 423.60p -3.02%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 266.00p -2.88%
Man Group (EMG) 83.90p -2.72%
Polymetal International (POLY) 654.00p -2.39%
Telecity Group (TCY) 830.00p -2.35%
Premier Oil (PMO) 325.50p -2.34%
QinetiQ Group (QQ.) 191.60p -2.34%
Cobham (COB) 287.30p -2.15%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 44.42p -2.05%