- Ukraine turmoil continues as clashes turn deadly
- Investors cautious ahead of four-day weekend
- US corporate earnings in focus
- Diageo, Remy Cointreau dampen sentiment in beverage sector
techMARK 2,660.88 +0.35%
FTSE 100 6,581.75 -0.04%
FTSE 250 15,833.37 +0.56%
UK stocks were broadly flat on Thursday ahead of the long weekend as tensions between Russia and Ukraine continued to intensify.
The FTSE 100 was trading just 0.04% lower at 6,582 by midday, with under 30 points separating the index's intraday low (6,559.35) and higher (6,588.25).
Markets will be closed for Good Friday and Easter Monday so volumes are likely to remain low over the course of the session, according to analysts.
Along with a reduction in risk appetite today, investors were also adopting a cautious approach ahead of earnings from a raft of US blue chips later on, including banking heavyweights Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and bellwethers PepsiCo and General Electric.
Talks in Geneva between the US, Russia and Ukraine and the EU were being closely watched by global financial markets today, as reports of heightened tensions along the eastern border of Ukraine continue to worry world leaders.
Three pro-Russian protesters were reportedly killed in a clash last night with Ukrainian authorities at a military installation in the southeast of the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin today accused the Kiev government of committing "a serious crime" by sending in troops to Ukraine's east to remove Russian separatists.
Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital said that the violence is "a worrying prospect for market participants who so far have dealt with the geopolitical tensions in good character on the notion that this crisis is mostly a war of words between the West and Russia".
Diageo sinks as sales falter
Year-to-date organic revenue growth at Diageo has been held back by a sales decline in the third quarter due to weakness across many emerging markets, causing shares
to drop this morning. The company, famous for brands such as Captain Morgan, Smirnoff and Guinness, said that organic net sales fell by 1.3% in the three months to March 31st.
Guidance from French spirits maker Remy Cointreau also hit stocks in the beverages sector, after it said that full-year operating profit would drop by 35-40% due to weakness in China. UK-listed SABMiller was trading lower today.
RSA Insurance gained after selling off its Baltics and Polish businesses as newly-appointed Chief Executive Stephen Hester attempts to turn around the embattled insurer.
Barclays rose despite the bank's Chief Executive Antony Jenkins reportedly warning of thousands of further job cuts as part of a company shake-up.
Residential development group Taylor Wimpey was higher after saying that the UK housing market remains buoyant as demand continues to be boosted by the more accessible and affordable mortgage market. Sector peers Barratt Developments and Grainger were also higher.
Royal Dutch Shell edged higher following an exploration discovery offshore Malaysia. The Rosmari-1 well, located 135km offshore in Block SK318, encountered more than 450 metres of gas column after being drilled to a total depth of 2,123 metres.
Fashion group Burberry was pulling back after a solid rise the day before after Credit Suisse said it expects profit growth to "take a break" this year. "As much as we like Burberry's superior long-term top-line story, we see group margins under pressure in the next two years, which should put a lid on the shares," the bank said.
Sentiment in the luxury sector was also dampened by a profit warning from handbag and accessories maker Mulberry, its fourth in two years.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Barclays (BARC) 247.10p +4.02%
ITV (ITV) 186.10p +3.39%
St James's Place (STJ) 780.50p +2.97%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,997.00p +2.49%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 373.20p +2.25%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 94.65p +2.21%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 952.00p +2.15%
Schroders (SDR) 2,506.00p +2.08%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 401.90p +1.70%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 800.50p +1.65%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Diageo (DGE) 1,824.00p -4.00%
Fresnillo (FRES) 861.50p -2.55%
Tesco (TSCO) 287.65p -2.09%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,437.00p -1.98%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 315.10p -1.72%
Unilever (ULVR) 2,584.00p -1.45%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,372.50p -1.26%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,484.00p -1.20%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,310.00p -1.13%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,548.00p -0.99%
FTSE 250 - Risers
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 1,033.00p +4.34%
Close Brothers Group (CBG) 1,382.00p +4.22%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 346.00p +3.59%
RPC Group (RPC) 625.00p +3.31%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,617.00p +3.23%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 169.30p +3.17%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 312.50p +3.03%
Northgate (NTG) 526.00p +2.83%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 368.30p +2.76%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 1,272.00p +2.66%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Diploma (DPLM) 665.50p -2.70%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 232.80p -2.43%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 52.95p -2.40%
Polymetal International (POLY) 600.00p -2.36%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 141.50p -2.35%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 521.00p -1.98%
Greencore Group (GNC) 255.30p -1.58%
Debenhams (DEB) 79.90p -1.36%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 906.50p -1.15%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 128.90p -1.15%