Data showing improving confidence in Germany and the States wasn't enough to lift markets on Tuesday as investor sentiment was rattled by escalating tensions between Syria and the West.
Business confidence in Germany improved across the board in August as the Eurozone's largest economy continues to build momentum. The IFO report, based on a survey of 7,000 German executives, came in better than expected this morning with the business climate, current assessment and expectations sub-indices all showing improvement month-on-month.
Meanwhile, the index of US consumer confidence as measured by the Conference Board edged higher this month, surprising analysts who had expected a slightly decline.
Investors however largely shrugged off the figures with markets cementing losses made in early trading. The FTSE 100 in London finished down 51.13 points at 6,440.97.
Senior Market Analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets said: "The uncertainty being created by the potential for some form of military action in Syria, political uncertainty in Italy and the timing of a Fed tapering programme appears to have convinced a lot of people that the risks of getting involved in these markets somewhat outweighs any potential rewards, hence today's sharp falls."
Oil gains on Syrian crisis
Oil prices rose strongly today on concerns that heightened tensions in Syria could disrupt Middle East supplies. Brent crude for October delivery was trading at a six-month high of $113.97 a barrel (+2.93% on the day) by the close in London.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said last night that Syria would be held accountable for the "moral obscenity" of an alleged chemical weapons attack that has killed well over a thousand people. "By any standard it is inexcusable," he said, sparking speculation of a potential US involvement in the Syrian crisis.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel added today that the US has "assets in place" and forces are "ready to go" if intervention is decided. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister David Cameron cut his holiday short and recalled parliament to vote on possible response to last week's attack.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem responded by saying that the government - which has not yet claimed responsibility - wouldn't step down and its defences would "surprise" those wanting to step in.
FTSE 100: Petrofac jumps on confident outlook
Oilfield services group Petrofac surged today after saying it remains on track to deliver growth this year despite both revenues and profits slipping in the first half. The company reiterated that the full year would be significantly weighted to the second half as it delivered results that beat consensus forecasts on most fronts.
Oil producers meanwhile were making gains as crude prices rose on the back of tensions in the Middle East. BP, Shell and BG Group were registering decent gains by the close.
Investec was weighing on the share price of airline group IAG after downgrading the stock from 'buy' to 'hold' following its near-70% jump so far this year (as of Friday's closing price). The broker said that rising capacity and stubbornly-high fuel prices will act as headwinds for the industry in 2014.
Royal Bank of Scotland slipped after the Financial Times reported that MPs were stepping up their campaign to split the lender into a 'good bank' and 'bad bank'.
Antofagasta was also a heavy faller after reporting that revenues in the first half dropped 12.1% to $2.7bn, reflecting a decline in copper prices and increased costs. Precious metals peers Fresnillo and Randgold however were high risers as gold and silver prices edged higher.
Retail firms M&S and Next were performing well after the stocks had their ratings upgraded by Citigroup and Bank of America, respectively.
FTSE 250: Polymetal hit by broker downgrade
While resource stocks such as Centamin, Premier Oil and African Barrick Gold tracked commodity prices higher today, precious metals group Polymetal was hit by a downgrade from HSBC to 'neutral'.
In contrast, UBM was performing well after UBS lifted the media and events firm to 'buy', adding the stock to its 'Most Preferred' list. After a period of underperformance, the Swiss bank says that UBM's valuation is "too cheap".
FTSE 100 - Risers
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,373.00p +8.54%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,310.00p +7.11%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,335.00p +4.10%
BG Group (BG.) 1,210.00p +2.37%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,376.00p +1.62%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 479.10p +1.59%
Next (NXT) 4,990.00p +1.51%
Royal Dutch Shell 'A' (RDSA) 2,092.50p +1.43%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 296.90p +1.40%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,177.00p +1.35%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 300.50p -4.84%
GKN (GKN) 331.40p -4.25%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 330.10p -4.12%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 352.00p -4.01%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 215.00p -3.85%
TUI Travel (TT.) 343.90p -3.78%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,230.00p -3.70%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,437.50p -3.69%
IMI (IMI) 1,451.00p -3.52%
CRH (CRH) 1,358.00p -3.35%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Perform Group (PER) 520.50p +3.38%
Premier Oil (PMO) 355.30p +3.25%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 41.00p +3.14%
Genus (GNS) 1,490.00p +2.90%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 298.70p +2.65%
Alent (ALNT) 345.90p +2.61%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 170.30p +2.34%
Menzies(John) (MNZS) 775.00p +2.31%
Cranswick (CWK) 1,155.00p +2.12%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 278.10p +1.94%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 136.10p -8.47%
Polymetal International (POLY) 741.00p -8.46%
JPMorgan Indian Inv Trust (JII) 284.70p -7.32%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 223.10p -7.00%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 262.80p -5.67%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 1,704.00p -4.75%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 341.10p -4.72%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 757.00p -4.54%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 124.20p -4.39%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 584.00p -4.34%