- FTSE down 47.55 points at 6,751.60
- Ongoing protests in Ukraine
- Eurozone confidence beats consensus
techMARK 2,883.75 -0.54%
FTSE 100 6,744.70 -0.80%
FTSE 250 16,392.95 -0.48%
Stocks registered a sharp decline by lunchtime, as investor sentiment was dampened by unimpressive reports out from RBS, WPP and RSA Insurance.
The FTSE was down 47.55 points at 6,751.60 by the midday point.
Along with a vast number of full-year results out from FTSE 350 companies, traders are also digesting a string of economic data released in Europe during the course of the morning.
This afternoon, attentions will turn to a testimonial from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on monetary policy and the economy.
Two thirds of homeowners are unprepared for interest rate rise
The latest Legal & General Mortgage Mood survey found that two-thirds of consumers (65%) are not financially preparing for an interest rate rise in the next two years.
Jeremy Duncombe, Director of Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: "It appears that borrowers have not yet woken up to the possibility of a rate rise. With rates likely to go up in the medium-term, lenders are already starting to price in a change in base rate in advance [...] By not preparing or re-mortgaging, homeowners might miss a good opportunity to lock in a record low interest rate."
Busy day in Europe
Eurozone confidence indicators improved during February and beat consensus, although the gauge tracking consumers' sentiment showed these were more downbeat than in the first month of 2014, according to the European Commission.
The economic sentiment indicator marked a marginal increase of 0.2 points to 101.2, clocking in slightly above expectations of 100.9.
In Germany, the number of people unemployed fell by 14,000 compared to expectations of 10,000, while jobless claims declined by 28,000, according to the Federal Statistics Office. The jobless rate held steady at 6.8% as expected.
Over in Spain, the monthly gross domestic product figure came in below expectations with a rise to 0.2%, compared to 0.3% the previous month and expectations of the same figure.
February French consumer confidence declined, falling further below the long-term average of 100 to 85, compared to 86 the previous month.
The turbulent situation in Ukraine has continued today, with reports that dozens of armed men have seized government buildings in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea.
Capital Economics noted that "it's difficult to gauge the immediate impact of recent developments in Ukraine on the economy", but said "historical evidence from similar instances of unrest and political transition suggests that GDP growth rates can weaken by between 4-8% points in the following year".
"In Ukraine's case, this would imply a pretty severe recession," it added.
Capita and Whitbread continue to lead upside, RBS in bottom spot
Outsourcing specialist Capita led the upside after it said it had won £588m-worth of new contracts so far in 2014, as it lifted pre-tax profits by 14% to £215m for the 2013 full-year. Revenues rose 15% to £3.85bn and operating profits increased to £516m from £312m in 2012.
Whitbread also rose strongly after revealing it is on track to report full-year results at the top end of expectations. In the 50 weeks to February 13th, the hotels and restaurants chain saw its like-for-like sales climb 4.0%, driven by its Costa and Premier Inn chains, which rose 5.8% and 4.7%, respectively.
Meanwhile, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) fell sharply after reporting its biggest annual loss since the height of the 2008 financial crisis as the lender underwent a major restructuring and paid fines. The state-backed bank reported an operating loss before tax of £8.24bn for the year through December 2013, up from a loss of £5.27bn in 2012, missing analysts' estimates of £6.7bn.
"It is still hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel of nationalisation as a sixth straight annual loss misses expectations and highlights the job that still remains," IG's Premium Client Manager, Will Hedden, commented.
Advertising giant WPP fell after revealing a stronger pound in the second half of the year in key markets lowered reported margins by 0.2 margin points, causing the company to miss its margin target. Significantly, the group said: "All in all, 2014 looks to be another demanding year, as a strong UK pound and weak fast growth market currencies continue to take their toll on our reported operating margins." For its part, broker Jefferies said the numbers were "good, but probably not good enough".
FTSE 100 - Risers
Capita (CPI) 1,140.00p +5.07%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,342.00p +3.60%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 970.50p +0.94%
Tesco (TSCO) 328.65p +0.81%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,443.00p +0.56%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,687.00p +0.42%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 638.00p +0.24%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,804.00p +0.19%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,352.00p +0.15%
Reed Elsevier (REL) 910.00p +0.11%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 321.10p -9.29%
WPP (WPP) 1,260.00p -5.33%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 99.00p -3.13%
Standard Life (SL.) 373.30p -3.09%
Aviva (AV.) 458.90p -2.98%
GKN (GKN) 403.00p -2.26%
Prudential (PRU) 1,328.00p -2.14%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,020.00p -2.11%
ITV (ITV) 197.40p -2.03%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,419.00p -2.00%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 257.80p +15.40%
Man Group (EMG) 94.05p +11.83%
Bodycote (BOY) 732.00p +5.17%
CSR (CSR) 750.00p +4.68%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 417.00p +3.73%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 427.00p +3.69%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 108.30p +2.75%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 380.40p +2.18%
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (UDG) 377.70p +2.00%
RPS Group (RPS) 322.00p +1.83%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
IP Group (IPO) 214.90p -4.45%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 535.50p -3.95%
Laird (LRD) 319.90p -2.94%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 599.00p -2.92%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 816.00p -2.91%
Hiscox Ltd (HSX) 633.00p -2.77%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,437.00p -2.68%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 67.50p -2.67%
Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT) 1,000.00p -2.63%
Kier Group (KIE) 1,776.00p -2.63%