UK stocks were near their lows of the day by mid-session, weighed down by the much weaker than forecast manufacturing and services sector data out this morning in the Eurozone.
That came ahead of a barrage of macroeconomic statistics which were scheduled for release in the United States this afternoon and despite a much stronger than expected reading on retail sales this morning, courtesy of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Those increased at a 2.1% month-on-month clip in February, comfortably outstripping expectations for a gain of 0.4%. Even so, economists at Barclays Research pointed out that: "we think that despite the positive news it is too soon to call for a significant change in fortunes here (...)."
To drive the point home the bank's economists highlighted the fact that the most recent data showed inflation rising further and earnings growth falling unexpectedly, "suggesting the squeeze in real household incomes is set to continue and the outlook for retailing remains challenging."
As regards Cyprus, the Mediterranean country's banks are now expected to remain closed until next Tuesday, while the European Central Bank has committed to providing liquidity until Monday. The latter puts the onus on the government in Nicosia to find a viable solution by then.
Not all is bad news however. Thus, and acting as a backdrop, were the better-than-expected figures on Chinese manufacturing which were released in Beijing overnight.
As well, the Federal Reserve seems to have given little indication yesterday that it may be contemplating a reduction in the $85bn pace of its monthly asset purchases.
NEXT and AstraZeneca lead gains
Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca has announced its intention to reduce the number of sales and administrative posts by 2,300, while at the same time increasing the number of experimental treatments.
UK retailer NEXT unveiled a rise in 2012 profits on Thursday, boosted by growth in 'on-line' sales and business expansion. Pre-tax profits climbed by 9.0% to £621.6 for the year to the end of January 2013, compared to £570.3m a year earlier.
The UK's largest water company, United Utilities, expects to report an increase in annual profits despite rises in depreciation and power costs. Ahead of results for the year ended March 31st 2013, the firm said it was trading in line with expectations as it "continues to drive improvements in customer service and operational effectiveness".
Electronics components supplier Premier Farnell said that market conditions remain tough as it reported a 3% decline in fourth quarter sales. Adjusted operating profit for the 13 weeks ended February 3rd fell 3.4% to £23.9m while total revenue fell to £239.3m after a weak performance from MDD Americas.
Brewin Dolphin Holdings has appointed former Morgan Stanley boss David Nicol as Chief Executive Officer after Jamie Matheson resigns as Executive Chairman.
Shares of construction outfit Berkeley are lower after Deutsche Bank downgraded the shares
from buy to hold while at the same time increasing its target price from 1941p to 2211p.
Royal Bank of Scotland is progressing on the sale of the 316 branches regulators are forcing it to sell, with some of the UK's biggest fund managers squaring off against US private equity firms, people with knowledge of the discussions said, Bloomberg reports.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Next (NXT) 4,267.00p +2.89%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 276.40p +2.52%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 3,103.50p +2.09%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 703.50p +1.15%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,740.00p +0.83%
Severn Trent (SVT) 1,680.00p +0.54%
TUI Travel (TT.) 311.50p +0.52%
Barclays (BARC) 296.45p +0.42%
Amec (AMEC) 1,058.00p +0.38%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 1,242.00p +0.32%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 293.30p -4.43%
CRH (CRH) 1,493.00p -2.29%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 257.70p -2.24%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 887.00p -2.15%
Experian (EXPN) 1,137.00p -2.07%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,377.00p -2.06%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,295.00p -1.89%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,934.00p -1.83%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,741.00p -1.80%
Shire Plc (SHP) 1,999.00p -1.72%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 205.60p +5.38%
Premier Farnell (PFL) 226.00p +3.34%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 93.70p +3.14%
IP Group (IPO) 145.00p +3.13%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 459.80p +2.52%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 256.90p +2.35%
SIG (SHI) 160.90p +2.09%
QinetiQ Group (QQ.) 199.50p +1.99%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,029.00p +1.88%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 529.00p +1.63%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Vesuvius (VSVS) 371.60p -3.95%
Ted Baker (TED) 1,310.00p -3.25%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,001.00p -3.10%
Rank Group (RNK) 172.50p -2.82%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 156.70p -2.73%
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 251.90p -2.70%
Inchcape (INCH) 493.80p -2.70%
Victrex (VCT) 1,670.00p -2.57%
SDL (SDL) 448.20p -2.57%
Menzies(John) (MNZS) 757.00p -2.39%
FTSE TechMARK - Risers
NCC Group (NCC) 144.00p +3.97%
XP Power Ltd. (DI) (XPP) 1,169.10p +3.00%
Sepura (SEPU) 98.50p +1.29%
Kofax (KFX) 309.75p +0.49%
Ricardo (RCDO) 430.75p +0.17%
Consort Medical (CSRT) 776.00p +0.13%
Puricore (PURI) 51.50p 0.00%
DRS Data & Research Services (DRS) 19.00p 0.00%
Triad Group (TRD) 5.75p 0.00%
Parity Group (PTY) 30.75p 0.00%
FTSE TechMARK - Fallers
Ark Therapeutics Group (AKT) 0.44p -8.33%
RM (RM.) 75.00p -3.07%
Filtronic (FTC) 72.00p -2.70%
Optos (OPTS) 163.25p -1.66%
Gresham Computing (GHT) 82.45p -1.55%
Oxford Biomedica (OXB) 1.77p -1.39%
BATM Advanced Communications Ltd. (BVC) 18.25p -1.35%
Antisoma (ASM) 1.85p -1.33%
Innovation Group (TIG) 25.00p -0.99%
E2V Technologies (E2V) 122.00p -0.41%