- ECB under pressure to move on rates
- Stocks erase gains but near three-week highs
- Copper futures lower ahead of manufacturing PMIs
- Small Russian troop pull back
techMARK 2,764.65 +0.09%
FTSE 100 6,598.37 -0.26%
FTSE 250 16,273.72 +0.57%
UK stocks ended the day slightly lower as investors opted to bide their time ahead of Friday's US non-farm payrolls report and a barrage of data on the global manufacturing sector due out tomorrow.
Worth noting, copper futures were changing hands at $303 per pound in early morning trading on COMEX, moving lower by approximately 0.51%. Acting as a backdrop, and linked to the above, a fair bit of market commentary could be seen referencing the risk of a steeper than expected slowdown in China's economy.
Further weighing on sentiment was a weaker than expected reading on mortgage approvals for February. Data from the Bank of England revealed a decline to a monthly pace of 70,309, in comparison to the 76,753 seen in the month before and the 75,000 expected by the consensus.
In parallel, European stocks were also getting weighed down by traders' cautiousness ahead of Thursday European Central Bank policy meeting.
Reza Moghadam, Director of the IMF's European Department said today the central bank still has room to cut interest rates in face of the considerable downwards pressure on inflation.
Figures released on Monday showed the annual rate of Eurozone consumer price inflation easing to a five-year low of 0.5% in March, down from 0.8% in February and below the 0.6% consensus forecast. The 'core' rate, which excludes volatile factors such as energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, fell to 0.8% from 1%, as expected.
Ben May, European Economist at Capital Economics said that the slowdown in annual price rises was probably due to the timing of Easter, which fell in March last year. "But while we expect both headline and core inflation to pick up in April, underlying inflationary pressures will remain weak thanks to the large amount of spare economic capacity and the euro's strength," he said.
May said it is "only a matter of time" before the European Central Bank (ECB) will decide that it needs to take "further policy action to prevent a worsening of the medium-term inflation outlook".
Speaking in afternoon, Ukrainian Defence Ministry official Major-General Oleksandr Rozmaznin said the number of Russian troops deployed on the border with Ukraine is decreasing. He was unable to confirm numbers.
"The number has definitely dropped and it (the situation) has calmed down. We won't rejoice and shout 'Hurray'. It doesn't matter how many of them there are, we just need to make sure our defences are strong," he said, according to Reuters.
Babcock gains on nuclear contract
Engineering group Babcock led gains after its joint venture, Cavendish Fluor Partnership, was selected as the preferred bidder for a UK government contract to manage the decommissioning of nuclear sites. According to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority the 14-year contract is worth up to £7bn.
Some miners also did well, including Anglo American and Rio Tinto, after Credit Suisse named them as its top picks in the metals and mining sector. Anglo was applauded for its restructuring potential, while the bank said that Rio's shareholder returns could be "larger and [...] sooner than any of its peer group".
Analysts at Barclays raised their target price on ARM Holdings from 1125p to 1200p while reiterating their overweight recommendation.
Insurance stocks such as Resolution and Aviva edged higher as share prices
attempted to recover from the sell-off that ensued on Friday on the news of a regulatory investigation into the industry. The Financial Conduct Authority is set to outline its report today.
Power systems giant Rolls-Royce gained after winning a $50m one-year contract to support the US Marines Corps fleet of KC-130J air-to-air refuelling tankers.
GlaxoSmithKline declined after saying the third phase of its study of darpladib failed to meet its target for the prevention of stroke.
Peel Hunt upgraded stock in African Barrick Gold to 'buy' from 'hold'.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,347.00p +4.26%
Pearson (PSON) 1,063.00p +2.31%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,049.00p +2.24%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 998.00p +2.10%
WPP (WPP) 1,237.00p +1.81%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,337.50p +1.77%
BAE Systems (BA.) 414.20p +1.67%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,438.00p +1.55%
G4S (GFS) 241.50p +1.51%
Aviva (AV.) 477.00p +1.45%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
SSE (SSE) 1,469.00p -2.78%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,945.00p -2.52%
St James's Place (STJ) 825.00p -2.25%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,781.00p -1.73%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,591.50p -1.64%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 852.00p -1.62%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 3,876.50p -1.55%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 748.50p -1.51%
Next (NXT) 6,600.00p -1.49%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,162.00p -1.44%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Evraz (EVR) 79.70p +10.62%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 263.50p +6.51%
Xaar (XAR) 938.00p +5.99%
CSR (CSR) 725.50p +4.54%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 203.20p +4.26%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 1,074.00p +3.67%
Informa (INF) 528.50p +3.53%
Alent (ALNT) 317.00p +3.49%
Debenhams (DEB) 79.95p +3.09%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,890.00p +3.06%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Fisher (James) & Sons (FSJ) 1,463.00p -2.27%
esure Group (ESUR) 279.70p -2.24%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 330.00p -2.22%
NMC Health (NMC) 504.50p -2.04%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 372.10p -1.85%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 324.90p -1.84%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 166.90p -1.71%
EnQuest (ENQ) 124.00p -1.67%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 237.50p -1.66%
Soco International (SIA) 396.00p -1.49%