- FTSE closes 16.98 points lower at 6,588.32
- Feb UK retail sales rise by more than expected
- US jobless claims fall more than expected
techMARK 2,763.04 -0.70%
FTSE 100 6,588.32 -0.26%
FTSE 250 16,202.17 -0.31%
Stocks ended Thursday's session broadly lower as both the banking and mining sectors weighed heavily and attentions returned to the situation surrounding Crimea.
The FTSE 100 closed 16.98 points lower at 6,588.32.
In the latest news out from Ukraine, it was announced today that the country will $27bn in aid following an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The financial lifeline follows Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, which prompted Western leaders to impose targeted sanctions against senior officials responsible for the destabilisation.
The IMF agreement is on a $14-18bn standby credit for Ukraine, in return for tough economic reforms that will unlock further aid from the European Union, the US and other lenders over a two-year period.
This latest development comes after US President Barack Obama denounced Russia's actions in Crimea.
Speaking in Brussels, Obama last night warned that the US would impose "more sanctions" on Russia if it continues to escalate the crisis in Ukraine following last week's annexation of Crimea. "If Russia stays on its current course the costs for the Russian economy will continue to grow," he said.
UK retail sales rise by more than expected in February
UK retail sales rose by more than expected last month, according to official out earlier today.
Sales volumes lifted 3.7% in February against the same month a year ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. That was better than economists' forecasts of 2.5%. Retail sales rose 1.7% against January, when they fell 2%, topping economists' hopes of 0.5%, the ONS said.
US jobless claims fall more than expected
US jobless claims dropped to their lowest levels in nearly four months last week, according to the Labor Department.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 311,000 in the seven days to March 22nd, from a revised 321,000 the week before, which was the lowest since November and surprised analysts who had expected claims to rise to 323,000.
The four-week moving average, often seen as a more reliable measure of underlying conditions in the labour market, fell by 9,5000 to 317,750. This was the "lowest reading since computer issues artificially lowered claims in September of last year", according to Analyst Cooper Howes from Barclays.
Aberdeen slides after target price cut
Aberdeen Asset Management declined on the back of Credit Suisse's decision to cut its target price on the stock from 470p to 415p, reiterating its 'neutral' rating.
SABMiller was also a notable faller, alongside fellow drinks giant Diageo. The former on Wednesday had its price target reduced by Nomura from 2,600p to 2,500p.
Engineering group Babcock was a heavy faller after agreeing to buy helicopter services provider Avincis for £920m. The company, which will also assume Avincis' net debt of £705m through a new debt facility of its own, will fund the purchase with a £1.1bn rights issue, though some analysts raised concerns with the price of the deal.
Miners were also out of favour as stocks tracked metal prices lower. Jefferies also dampened sentiment after cutting commodity forecasts and target prices across the sector. Fresnillo, Glencore Xstrata and Randgold Resources were among the worst performers.
IG Group noted that UK banks were "shaken by President Obama's message to Vladimir Putin that tougher sanctions could be imposed on Russia".
"Even though UK banks have less exposure to Russian assets than Eurozone banks, they are feeling the pinch as a war of words could lead to frozen assets," it added.
Meanwhile, UK Chancellor George Osborne has been asked by the parliamentary treasury committee if he or other ministers put pressure on the Co-operative Group or Lloyds Banking Group over the sale of 632 Lloyds branches.
The Co-op was in talks with Lloyds to buy its branches but the deal was scrapped last year following the discovery of a £1.5bn capital shortfall at the Co-op's banking division.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 396.90p +2.48%
SABMiller (SAB) 2,992.50p +1.85%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,287.00p +1.61%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 930.00p +1.53%
Diageo (DGE) 1,864.00p +1.47%
Royal Mail (RMG) 564.00p +1.08%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 88.65p +0.97%
Unilever (ULVR) 2,505.00p +0.93%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,252.00p +0.78%
BG Group (BG.) 1,111.00p +0.68%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,275.00p -6.66%
Fresnillo (FRES) 837.50p -4.01%
Standard Life (SL.) 386.30p -3.42%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,042.00p -3.25%
Next (NXT) 6,745.00p -2.88%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,486.00p -2.65%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 759.00p -2.32%
Group (VOD) 218.00p -2.31%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 413.00p -2.27%
Sage Group (SGE) 418.30p -2.11%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Cairn Energy (CNE) 173.30p +3.71%
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 331.90p +3.40%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,216.00p +2.96%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 819.00p +2.89%
Man Group (EMG) 101.90p +2.88%
Evraz (EVR) 70.85p +2.38%
Laird (LRD) 304.80p +2.14%
EnQuest (ENQ) 130.10p +2.12%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 331.30p +2.10%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 672.50p +1.82%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Afren (AFR) 143.00p -5.17%
Alent (ALNT) 305.20p -4.24%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 134.60p -4.13%
888 Holdings (888) 152.50p -3.79%
ITE Group (ITE) 190.30p -3.25%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 240.70p -3.06%
Telecity Group (TCY) 689.50p -2.96%
Ted Baker (TED) 2,176.00p -2.90%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 50.80p -2.87%
RPS Group (RPS) 319.00p -2.45%