- Ukraine tensions rise ahead of Crimea vote
- Analysts cut forecasts for China
- Banking stocks mixed
- US lifts ban on BP GoM contracts
techMARK 2,765.64 -0.76%
FTSE 100 6,529.08 -0.38%
FTSE 250 16,062.45 -0.76%
The FTSE 100 was registering losses for the sixth consecutive session as investors scaled back positions ahead of the weekend amid ongoing concerns about the crisis in Ukraine and an economic slowdown in China.
London's benchmark index, which fell to a five-week low on Thursday, was trading 0.4% lower at 6,529 by midday. The UK index dropped 1% to 6,553.78 yesterday, is worst closing level since February 5th.
Geopolitical tensions in Ukraine have escalated on the back of reports that Moscow is stepping up its military presence on the country's borders ahead of the Crimea referendum on Sunday that could see the region vote to become part of the Russian Federation.
Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari said that outcome of the vote is "looking like a foregone conclusion" given that more than half of people in Crimea are believed to be ethnic Russian and the vote itself is being carried out by pro-Russian forces.
However, he said the "potential for tensions to escalate off the back of the referendum" is what is driving the uncertainty being felt on markets today given that Western leaders believe the vote to be unconstitutional.
"While any Western response is unlikely to come before the markets reopen next week, traders are clearly not willing to take that risk and are instead opting for the risk-averse play, in the form of gold and the yen," Erlam said.
As for China, a number of analysts have downgraded their growth estimates for the Asian powerhouse in recent days, including those at JPMorgan, Bank of America, UBS and Nomura.
Amid tightening Chinese credit conditions that spooked global markets earlier in the week, data out Thursday showed that growth in industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investments all eased last month.
Growth concerns were also compounded yesterday after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned that defaults on bonds and other financial products in the future are "unavoidable".
Financial stocks were trading in a mixed fashion today with HSBC and Standard Chartered making gains and Barclays and RBS in the red.
Berenberg has maintained its 'buy' rating on HSBC today, saying that the bank's transformation is not reflected in its share price. "We believe HSBC has transformed itself into a bank that is comparable to the one that outperformed its peers and the market between 1992 and 2003. This appears to have been ignored by the market," the broker said.
Barclays fell amid reports in the Financial Times that it is set to cut thousands of investment-banking jobs and move capital into its Barclaycard and UK mortgage lending divisions. Meanwhile, Moody's downgraded its rating on RBS today, saying financial shocks or unforeseen cost hikes could scupper its huge turnaround plan.
Oil giant BP gained after environmental regulators said the company is now eligible to enter into new contracts with the US government, including new deepwater leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mining stocks were edging lower on the back ongoing concerns over China including Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Antofagasta.
AstraZeneca was lower after JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded the pharmaceuticals group from 'neutral' to 'underweight', while engineering IMI was lifted from 'hold' to 'buy' by Societe Generale.
Supermarket chains J Sainsbury and Tesco were bouncing this morning after disappointing profit guidance and a shake-up at WM Morrison on Thursday reignited concerns about the rising threat from discount grocery chains. WM Morrison, which fell 12% yesterday, was trading slightly lower this morning as analysts cut their target prices for the stock.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 312.50p +2.49%
IMI (IMI) 1,444.00p +1.91%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 462.80p +0.87%
Meggitt (MGGT) 451.40p +0.83%
Experian (EXPN) 1,040.00p +0.78%
Tesco (TSCO) 300.95p +0.74%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 601.00p +0.64%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,217.50p +0.55%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 93.35p +0.48%
Unilever (ULVR) 2,364.00p +0.38%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 418.30p -3.37%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,429.00p -2.72%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 367.00p -2.58%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,397.00p -2.17%
BT Group (BT.A) 389.70p -2.06%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 294.40p -2.06%
CRH (CRH) 1,636.00p -2.04%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,291.00p -1.90%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,818.00p -1.54%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,610.00p -1.47%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Spirent Communications (SPT) 100.10p +3.09%
Rank Group (RNK) 137.00p +2.62%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 263.60p +1.78%
esure Group (ESUR) 269.00p +1.32%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 1,573.00p +1.16%
Hansteen Holdings (HSTN) 106.10p +1.05%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 853.50p +1.01%
Michael Page International (MPI) 472.40p +0.98%
BTG (BTG) 573.50p +0.97%
Hunting (HTG) 834.50p +0.97%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Ocado Group (OCDO) 438.50p -12.74%
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,186.00p -7.57%
Evraz (EVR) 53.20p -4.74%
Perform Group (PER) 256.80p -4.04%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 206.90p -3.95%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 327.50p -3.82%
ICAP (IAP) 390.00p -3.56%
Pace (PIC) 468.40p -3.12%
Kentz Ltd. (KENZ) 712.00p -3.06%
Man Group (EMG) 102.90p -2.92%