A number of poorly-received results from blue-chip companies and ongoing concerns about the future of US stimulus weighed heavily on markets on Tuesday morning, dragging the FTSE 100 to levels not seen in over six weeks.
London's benchmark index reached an intraday low of around 6,400 early on before trimming losses slightly by midday; still, the last time it closed lower was on July 5th when it finished the day at 6,375.52.
Rising US bond yields and speculation about an impending tapering of asset purchases by the Federal Reserve have hit market sentiment over recent weeks. Investors are now choosing to adopt a cautious approach ahead of the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting due out tomorrow.
"We're seeing a lot more risk aversion in the markets now, with Asian indices plummeting over night and European stocks following suit this morning. With very little data out over night and again today, investors are clearly preparing themselves ahead of the Fed minutes which will be released on Wednesday," said Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari.
While Erlam isn't expecting any surprises from the minutes - given that a potential decision to taper still remains dependent on incoming economic data - he said: "That has never stopped the markets panicking in the past and doesn't look like stopping them now. The markets hate uncertainty."
FTSE 100: Wood Group, CRH, miners drop sharply
Oil and gas services company Wood Group slumped this morning after scaling back its full-year EBITA growth guidance for its engineering division from 15% to "10-15%", reflecting some project delays and further weakening in Canada. EBITA in the first half was up 18.6% year-on-year.
CRH also fell sharply after swinging to a loss for the half-year period. The building materials firm reported a loss before tax of €71m, down from €102m the year before, while sales fell 3.0% to €8.01bn.
Mining stocks were also out of favour today as results from BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata failed to impress. BHP said lower commodity prices wiped $8.9bn off its underlying earnings which plunged 22.4% in the year to the end of June, while Glencore Xstrata was forced to write down $7.7bn in assets as it reported a 9.0% drop in first-half adjusted EBITDA.
Even housebuilder Persimmon fell into the red by midday despite a strong jump early on. The company said that first-half profits jumped 38% and its order book was running 21% ahead of last year as the government's 'Help to Buy' scheme boosted demand.
Defensive stocks were in demand today as relatively 'riskier' assets (such as those in the resources sectors) were sold off. Telecom giant BT, utilities peers National Grid and United Utilities and pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline were all making gains this morning.
Meggitt, the engineering group working in the aerospace, defence and energy markets, was slightly higher after Investec upgraded the stock from 'add' to 'buy', saying it still sees further upside even after a strong performance this year.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Compass Group (CPG) 869.50p +1.40%
BT Group (BT.A) 326.30p +1.27%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,659.00p +0.85%
National Grid (NG.) 739.50p +0.82%
Meggitt (MGGT) 536.50p +0.75%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,680.00p +0.60%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,410.00p +0.49%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 824.50p +0.49%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 190.70p +0.45%
British Land Co (BLND) 570.50p +0.44%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 831.50p -7.92%
CRH (CRH) 1,363.00p -4.42%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,153.00p -3.92%
Prudential (PRU) 1,146.00p -3.37%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 292.25p -3.21%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,477.00p -2.89%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 73.08p -2.56%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,907.50p -2.48%
GKN (GKN) 332.10p -2.24%
G4S (GFS) 241.50p -1.91%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Fisher (James) & Sons (FSJ) 1,054.00p +5.56%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 200.00p +4.44%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 331.00p +2.41%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,087.00p +1.40%
NMC Health (NMC) 334.50p +1.36%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 565.00p +1.35%
Britvic (BVIC) 562.50p +1.35%
Keller Group (KLR) 1,056.00p +1.25%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 37.48p +0.75%
Lancashire Holdings Limited (LRE) 750.00p +0.74%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 259.00p -5.99%
Computacenter (CCC) 510.00p -5.38%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 222.10p -4.64%
Evraz (EVR) 117.50p -4.55%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 338.40p -4.05%
Fenner (FENR) 345.50p -3.81%
Inchcape (INCH) 610.50p -3.63%
Perform Group (PER) 530.00p -3.55%
Utilico Emerging Markets Ltd (DI) (UEM) 167.50p -3.29%
Menzies(John) (MNZS) 735.50p -3.16%