Markets were sharply lower on Tuesday with retailers and miners providing a drag as investors digested a barrage of gloomy economic data and the ongoing government shutdown in the States.
The FTSE 100 dipped below the 6,400 mark in morning trade, a level seen as support for London's benchmark index in recent days. Indices across Europe were registering firm losses, while US stock futures were pointing to a flat start after the S&P 500
fell to a four-week low last night.
Lawmakers in Washington have continued to butt heads over the budget and the debt ceiling, extending the partial shutdown of the US government into its second week. While Republicans continue to demand a delay to the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are determined not to give up ground over President Barack Obama's flagship health-care bill.
The Treasury has already said that it will exhaust measures to avoid going over the borrowing limit by October 17th, while the Congressional Budget Office claims that cash reserves will run dry between October 22nd and October 31st.
Even the Chinese government has launched its first message to America about its concerns over the budget impasse. In a meeting with reporters, Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao said that "the clock is ticking" in Washington. "The US is clearly aware of China's concerns about the financial stalemate and China's request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments," he said.
"Up until now, international officials have refrained from voicing their concerns over the crisis. However, when one of the United States' top lenders announces their dissatisfaction over the current disaster then perhaps this should be more of an incentive for officials to reach a deal," said Financila Trader Shavaz Dhalla from Spreadex.
"Nevertheless, it seems Democrats are continuing to call Republicans' bluff over allowing the US to default by dismissing the possibility of a compromise regarding Obamacare. Only time will tell whether a failure to give ground now will prove detrimental for the world economy later."
Data fails to impress
Also weighing on sentiment this morning was data which showed that activity growth in the Chinese services sector slowed in September. The HSBC/Markit services purchasing managers' index fell from 52.8 to 52.5 last month, adding to the downwards pressure on miners in London.
Retailers, meanwhile, were hit by the news that UK retail sales growth slowed for the second straight month in September. According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), like-for-like sales growth fell to an annual rise of 0.7% last month, from 1.8% the month before - analysts were looking for a pick-up to 2%.
Looking across the Channel, German factory orders unexpectedly fell by 0.3% in August, an improvement from the revised 1.9% decline the month before but worse than the 1.1% increase forecast by analysts.
The news comes amid uncertainty over which party Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats will form a coalition with in order to end a hung parliament. Opposition party Social Democrats have signalled their readiness to join the conservative Christian Democrats while a top aide for Merkel has suggested a partnership with the Greens was a realistic possibility.
FTSE 100: Retailers fall on sales data
Blue-chip retailers Marks & Spencer, Next and Kingfisher were among the worst performers of the morning after the retail sales data from the BRC.
Cyclicals were in the red as risk appetite was scaled back on the back of concerns over the US and China. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore Xstrata were all out of favour, along with financials Standard Life, Lloyds and Prudential.
HSBC was also lower after selling a portfolio of non-performing personal unsecured and secured loans to the Paragon Group of Companies for £13.5m.
In turn, defensives such as utilities were in demand with National Grid and SSE making small gains. National Grid said today that while gas and electricity supplies will be tight this winter, they should be enough to meet the UK's needs through to spring.
FTSE 250: Ferrexpo delivers record production result
Ferrexpo, the Swiss head-quartered iron ore company, fell despite saying it has produced a record amount of 65% iron pellets from its own ore this year so far. Total pellet production was up 12.5% in the year-to-date, with production for September coming to 970.4kt.
Retailers Dixons, Ted Baker, Home Retail and Debenhams were under the weather after the sales data out from the BRC.
Materials group Victrex gained after saying sales volumes picked up in the second half of the year, following good progress across its industrial and transport markets.
Civil engineer Atkins edged higher after winning a £75m deal to design three of the six lines of the new Riyadh Metro in Saudi Arabia.
FTSE 100 - Risers
ITV (ITV) 183.90p +1.16%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 680.50p +0.89%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,332.00p +0.76%
Reed Elsevier (REL) 840.50p +0.66%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 825.00p +0.55%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,214.50p +0.45%
National Grid (NG.) 743.50p +0.41%
Experian (EXPN) 1,160.00p +0.35%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,164.00p +0.35%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 743.00p +0.34%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 469.70p -2.21%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 72.86p -1.98%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,767.00p -1.94%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 330.80p -1.81%
Standard Life (SL.) 345.40p -1.74%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,351.00p -1.60%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 2,954.00p -1.53%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,615.00p -1.52%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,306.00p -1.46%
Next (NXT) 4,959.00p -1.41%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ocado Group (OCDO) 462.40p +7.86%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,308.00p +5.48%
Perform Group (PER) 555.00p +2.78%
Kentz Corporation Ltd. (KENZ) 481.30p +1.75%
Evraz (EVR) 127.50p +1.67%
IP Group (IPO) 139.00p +1.53%
Computacenter (CCC) 530.00p +1.44%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 128.30p +1.42%
Fisher (James) & Sons (FSJ) 1,088.00p +1.40%
Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) 40.89p +1.26%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Redrow (RDW) 226.40p -3.58%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 44.82p -3.57%
Polymetal International (POLY) 594.00p -2.70%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 167.10p -2.51%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 145.50p -2.28%
Ted Baker (TED) 1,755.00p -2.23%
Afren (AFR) 135.70p -2.02%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 283.00p -1.91%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 714.00p -1.86%
Debenhams (DEB) 101.50p -1.84%