- Ukraine tensions escalate as G7 leaders meet
- Interim President orders withdrawal from Crimea
- Chinese manufacturing PMI eases
- Kentz, Centamin impress, Diploma drops
techMARK 2,769.80 -0.75%
FTSE 100 6,537.07 -0.31%
FTSE 250 16,085.67 -0.46%
Heightened geopolitical tensions in Ukraine pushed stocks firmly into negative territory on Monday, with the FTSE 100 trading 0.3 per cent lower at 6,537 by midday.
Sentiment also weighed down by yet more disappointing economic data from China where manufacturing activity continues to contract. Purchasing managers' indices (PMIs) from Europe, however, met analysts' forecasts.
"What we are still lacking is a catalyst to drive markets higher from here. A simple lessening of tensions in Ukraine, or merely in-line economic data, isn't enough," said Chris Beauchamp, Market Analyst at IG.
The ongoing Ukraine crisis stepped up a gear over the weekend on reports of Russian troops storming more bases in Crimea following a referendum and subsequent annexation of the region last week.
Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov has now ordered the withdrawal of Ukrainian armed forces from Crimea.
G7 leaders are expected to discuss their response to the annexation of Crimea as they meet for a nuclear security summit in The Hague today. EU and US leaders have already imposed and extended sanctions on a number of high-ranking officials and institutions close to the Kremlin.
Speaking to the BBC, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia said the risk of war with Russia was increasing. He explained that Russian President Vladimir Putin is opposed to talking to both Ukrainian and Western powers, which poses "quite a danger for the decision-making process". "We could only expect that he might invade," he added.
Chinese data weakens
The flash China manufacturing PMI hit an eight-month low at 48.1 in March, down from February's 48.5 and below the consensus forecast of 48.7. Readings below 50 indicate a contraction in the sector.
Analysts at Capital Economics said that this is the "latest sign that slowing credit and investment growth are weighing on domestic demand".
However, they said that with no sign of stress in the labour market, "the slowdown does not yet appear to warrant a significant stimulus response".
The Eurozone composite PMI, which measures both the services and manufacturing sectors, fell from 53.3 to 53.2, as expected.
Kentz, Centamin impress with results
Engineering and construction group Kentz Corporation was a high riser after boosting its full-year dividend by 21% after double-digit growth in profits in 2013. The company also said that 2014 trading is "expected to exceed management's previous expectations".
Egypt-focused gold miner Centamin also rose after delivering record operating profits in 2013 as an increase in production and falling costs managed to offset a steep drop in commodity prices.
Heading the other way was technical products and services provider Diploma which fell sharply after warning that full-year earnings will be affected by the stronger pound.
Financial services group Phoenix Group Holdings advanced after insurance giant Standard Life confirmed weekend media speculation that it is in talks to buy its Ignis Asset Management division. Reports suggest that Standard Life is considering offering £400m for Ignis.
Utility groups Centrica and SSE were lower ahead of the results of an Ofgem investigation this week which could see the regulator recommend a competition inquiry into the energy industry.
British American Tobacco declined after Credit Suisse downgraded its rating on the stock from to 'neutral', while Lloyds was helped higher by an upgraded to 'buy' at Investec.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 209.60p +1.75%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 368.60p +1.46%
Sage Group (SGE) 430.60p +1.46%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 78.37p +1.29%
Tesco (TSCO) 293.75p +0.98%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 306.55p +0.97%
BG Group (BG.) 1,070.00p +0.75%
Royal Mail (RMG) 585.50p +0.69%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 212.40p +0.57%
Diageo (DGE) 1,809.50p +0.53%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 412.00p -2.04%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,296.00p -2.04%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 395.90p -1.86%
SSE (SSE) 1,483.00p -1.79%
William Hill (WMH) 333.10p -1.77%
G4S (GFS) 235.20p -1.63%
Centrica (CNA) 332.90p -1.48%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,762.00p -1.43%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,346.00p -1.36%
BT Group (BT.A) 381.90p -1.34%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 57.85p +10.19%
Kentz Ltd. (KENZ) 790.00p +7.78%
Computacenter (CCC) 667.50p +4.22%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 1,646.00p +3.91%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 1,023.00p +3.86%
Perform Group (PER) 245.70p +3.28%
Cranswick (CWK) 1,231.00p +3.27%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 708.00p +2.91%
Alent (ALNT) 321.20p +2.42%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 724.50p +1.76%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Diploma (DPLM) 691.00p -9.08%
BTG (BTG) 552.00p -4.00%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 325.90p -3.95%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 67.55p -3.71%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 153.10p -3.47%
Northgate (NTG) 542.50p -3.12%
CSR (CSR) 702.00p -3.04%
Keller Group (KLR) 1,007.00p -2.99%
Halfords Group (HFD) 449.40p -2.73%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 179.00p -2.66%