Concerns over the Chinese economy and a weak performance by banking stocks halted a nine-day winning streak for UK markets on Wednesday, as investors chose to take profits following a strong run.
The FTSE 100 snapped a nine-day winning streak this morning, pulling back from Tuesday's finish of 6,695.66, the index's highest closing high since May 28th when it closed at 6,762.01.
Stocks have surged over the past week as investors celebrated the end to the US government shutdown and the short-term deal to raise the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, hopes over a continuation of Federal Reserve monetary stimulus were sparked yesterday after a disappointing September jobs report.
Weighing on markets this morning was a sharp sell-off across Asian indices overnight on the back of concerns over the Chinese banking sector following a report that said that debt write-offs at the country's biggest lenders tripled in the first half.
Investors were also focusing on the People's Bank of China's decision on Wednesday to refrain from adding liquidity to the market through new reverse repurchase operations, which led to a sharp increase in the country's benchmark money market rate.
In other news, the minutes of the latest Bank of England meeting were released this morning and showed that the Monetary Policy Committee was unanimous in its decision to keep policy unchanged as recent economic data pointed to a "robust recovery in activity".
Banks, ex-div stocks provide a drag
Banks all over Europe were out of favour after the European Central Bank said it would start to review the balance sheets of 130 institutions across the continent. RBS, Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and Standard Chartered were all registering losses in London.
A number of stocks were also trading in the red after going ex-dividend, including Smiths Group, BAE System, Rolls-Royce, John Menzies, Senior, William Hill, Rank Group, Barratt Developments and JD Wetherspoon.
Banknote printer and ID services firm De La Rue was a big mover with shares
sinking after the company warned that it would miss its full-year profit target by £10m owing to "challenging trading conditions".
Drugs group GlaxoSmithKline was also weighing on the market ahead of the release of its third-quarter results due out later on amid concerns over the impact of a corruption probe in China on sales.
Chip designer ARM Holdings fell for the second straight day as investors gave a cool reaction to its third-quarter results. JPMorgan Cazenove said this morning that it sees "no reason to be building positions at this time and would take profits in the short term."
Sports Direct edged higher after saying that sales in the nine weeks to September 29th were up 15.1% despite some tough comparatives with last year. Fellow retailer Home Retail also rose after a 53% jump in first-half profits owing to sales growth at its Argos and Homebase chains.
Costa and Premier Inn owner Whitbread was lower after Deutsche Bank downgraded the stock to 'hold', saying that it's time to "consolidate and take stock" after a great year.
Meanwhile, telecoms firm Vodafone was in demand as speculation continues to ramp up about a possible bid from US counterpart AT&T. Credit Suisse has raised its target for the UK-listed stock, saying it sees a 50% chance of a bid.
FTSE 100 - Risers
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 127.00p +2.50%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,244.00p +1.39%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 363.80p +1.34%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,804.00p +1.23%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 713.50p +1.21%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 351.40p +1.15%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 212.40p +1.14%
Capita (CPI) 985.50p +1.13%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,521.00p +1.12%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,361.00p +1.11%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,394.00p -4.19%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,510.00p -2.96%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 878.00p -2.88%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 353.20p -2.43%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,187.00p -2.28%
CRH (CRH) 1,513.00p -2.07%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 983.50p -2.04%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,914.50p -1.85%
Barclays (BARC) 267.70p -1.80%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,575.00p -1.62%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Laird (LRD) 239.90p +6.29%
Pace (PIC) 303.80p +4.76%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 191.60p +3.96%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 172.60p +3.35%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 22.48p +3.26%
IP Group (IPO) 145.90p +3.04%
Alent (ALNT) 363.00p +2.25%
Chemring Group (CHG) 219.80p +2.19%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,514.00p +2.16%
BH Global Ltd. USD Shares (BHGU) 11.63 +2.02%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
De La Rue (DLAR) 889.50p -9.33%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 622.00p -6.96%
Premier Oil (PMO) 323.10p -4.97%
Telecity Group (TCY) 786.00p -4.96%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 49.65p -4.24%
Evraz (EVR) 129.50p -3.50%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 253.40p -3.28%
AZ Electronic Materials SA (DI) (AZEM) 288.80p -2.43%
Soco International (SIA) 405.20p -1.89%
Hansteen Holdings (HSTN) 106.00p -1.85%