- Crimea concerns hit markets after Obama warning
- Banks, miners provide a drag
- Babcock drops after Avincis deal, Tullow disappoints
- Ofgem report weighs on utilities
techMARK 2,770.56 -0.43%
FTSE 100 6,571.17 -0.52%
FTSE 250 16,206.99 -0.28%
The UK stock market retreated from a two-week high on Thursday morning on the back of heightened geopolitical tensions and heavy falls from a number of blue chips.
Weakness in the heavyweight banking and mining sectors was providing a drag on the FTSE 100, along with a poorly-received update from Tullow Oil and a negative reaction to an acquisition by Babcock.
The Footsie was trading 0.5% lower at 6,571 by midday. The index inched higher to close at 6,605.3 on Wednesday, its highest finish since March 12th.
London stocks were tracking steep losses on Wall Street on Wednesday evening and a volatile session in Asia overnight after US President Barack Obama denounced Russia's actions in Crimea.
Speaking in Brussels, Obama 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.
"The lack of direction in the markets, which has been apparent for a couple of weeks now, is clearly being driven by the uncertainty surrounding the crisis in Crimea," said Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.
Thursday is set to be a busy day for economic data with gross domestic product growth, jobless claims and new home sales figures all due out Stateside later on.
Meanwhile, this morning saw the release of UK retail sales which rose by more than expected in February. Sales volumes lifted 3.7% in February against the same month a year ago, the Office for National Statistics said, better than economists' forecasts of 2.5%.
Babcock, Tullow, banks and miners
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.
Oil explorer Tullow also fell after a drilling update on its blocks onshore Kenya as it revealed that exploration wells Emong-1 and Etuko-2 were unsuccessful.
Banking peers HSBC and RBS fell as the Federal Reserve rejected the capital plans of their US units after they failed stress tests.
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. Glencore Xstrata, Fresnillo and Randgold Resources were among the worst performers.
Utility groups SSE and Centrica were subdued after UK energy regulator Ofgem referred the 'big six' energy companies for a full-scale competition investigation that could see them broken up.
FTSE 100 - Risers
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 929.00p +1.42%
BT Group (BT.A) 382.60p +1.14%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,862.00p +0.95%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 865.50p +0.58%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 75.60p +0.53%
Diageo (DGE) 1,845.00p +0.44%
BG Group (BG.) 1,108.00p +0.41%
Old Mutual (OML) 200.80p +0.40%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,081.00p +0.37%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 388.60p +0.34%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,281.00p -6.22%
Fresnillo (FRES) 839.50p -3.78%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 751.50p -3.28%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,489.00p -2.58%
SSE (SSE) 1,483.00p -2.31%
Standard Life (SL.) 392.50p -1.88%
Group (VOD) 219.05p -1.84%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,244.50p -1.80%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 305.60p -1.77%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,058.00p -1.76%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 330.00p +2.80%
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 677.00p +2.50%
Perform Group (PER) 248.30p +2.35%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,200.00p +1.61%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 1,080.00p +1.60%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 169.70p +1.56%
Computacenter (CCC) 649.50p +1.48%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 895.00p +1.47%
Hellermanntyton Group (HTY) 316.50p +1.44%
Capital & Counties Properties (CAPC) 354.90p +1.40%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 129.00p -3.73%
Afren (AFR) 145.90p -3.25%
888 Holdings (888) 153.70p -3.03%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 240.80p -3.02%
Polymetal International (POLY) 586.50p -2.74%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 146.50p -2.53%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 439.50p -2.16%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 603.50p -2.11%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 51.25p -2.01%
Henderson Group (HGG) 254.40p -1.97%