- Ukraine tensions prompt profit taking
- S&P downgrades Russia
- UK retail sales beat forecasts
- Pearson and William Hill gain after updates, Tullow falls
techMARK 2,754.20 -0.20%
FTSE 100 6,679.08 -0.36%
FTSE 250 15,950.90 -0.26%
UK stocks were trading with small losses on Friday, pulling back from a seven-week high the previous session, as ongoing concerns about Ukraine overshadowed better-than-expected UK retail sales.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.4% lower at 6,679 by midday. The index rose 0.4% to 6,703 on Thursday, its first close above 6,700 since March 7th.
Ongoing turmoil along the eastern border of Ukraine prompted traders to adopt a cautious attitude this morning after the country's foreign ministry said yesterday that five "terrorists" had been killed near the town of Slavyansk. Russia then announced that it would conduct military exercises near the border in response, with President Vladimir Putin saying there will be "consequences".
US Secretary of State John Kerry responded by warning Russia of making an "expensive mistake" if it does not take steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, threatening Moscow with more sanctions.
Standard & Poor's also downgraded its foreign and local currency rating for Russia on the back of capital outflows that put the country's economic growth at risk and warned that additional sanctions could result in a further downgrade.
"While there may be an element of profit taking driving markets lower today, I think a bigger contributing factor is the recent flare up in eastern Ukraine and the war of words now taking place between the US and Russia," said Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari UK.
These concerns were likely to feed through to a weak start on Wall Street with US stock futures pointing to losses of around 0.3% ahead of the opening bell. Goldman Sachs was also dampening sentiment Stateside after cutting its forecast for US economic growth in the first quarter from 1.5% to 1%.
In economic data this morning, UK retail sales volumes unexpectedly rose by 0.1% in March, according to the Office for National Statistics, better than the 0.4% drop expected by analysts.
Analysts at Barclays said that the data improves the outlook for household consumption. They said: "While we believe that earnings growth will be measured in the coming months, the increase in real earnings and strong job creation are boosting household revenues and further increasing confidence."
Pearson and William Hill gain, Tullow falls
Education specialist and Financial Times publisher Pearson was higher after saying it made a "solid start" to the year, in line with expectations. Nevertheless, the company revealed that headline sales had fallen 6% in the first quarter due to the strength of sterling against the US dollar
and key emerging market currencies.
High street bookie William Hill was rising despite reporting a 14% drop in first-quarter profits as major wins for football punters led to two substantial loss-making weeks in the first three months of the year. However, the company gave a confident outlook, saying: "The increased customer confidence from such wins should be good for business, especially in this World Cup year."
Heading the other way was oil explorer Tullow after it said the Tapendar-1 exploration well in the C-10 licence, offshore Mauritania, has not encountered hydrocarbons. The well is being plugged and abandoned.
Advertising and media group WPP beat forecasts with its first-quarter revenues today, but said that currency movements had a negative impact of 8.1% on its top line. Shares were down slightly by midday.
Banking stocks were also providing a drag this morning with HSBC, Lloyds and RBS in the red.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Pearson (PSON) 1,089.00p +3.71%
William Hill (WMH) 340.20p +2.13%
BP (BP.) 493.10p +0.77%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,465.00p +0.76%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,038.00p +0.68%
IMI (IMI) 1,505.00p +0.67%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,301.00p +0.61%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 898.50p +0.56%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,288.00p +0.55%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 206.20p +0.54%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Anglo American (AAL) 1,522.00p -2.84%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 840.00p -2.44%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,190.00p -1.82%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 601.90p -1.81%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,101.50p -1.76%
Next (NXT) 6,310.00p -1.33%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 74.53p -1.27%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,285.00p -1.23%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 408.30p -1.21%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 780.50p -1.14%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 695.00p +3.81%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 184.60p +3.13%
Premier Oil (PMO) 321.60p +2.58%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 239.10p +2.18%
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 133.10p +2.07%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 139.00p +1.91%
Halfords Group (HFD) 461.80p +1.70%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 350.00p +1.63%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 63.50p +1.60%
esure Group (ESUR) 257.80p +1.30%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Man Group (EMG) 97.45p -3.13%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 304.00p -2.28%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 244.70p -2.12%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 929.00p -2.11%
Henderson Group (HGG) 244.90p -1.96%
IP Group (IPO) 186.30p -1.95%
Laird (LRD) 289.70p -1.86%
Go-Ahead Group (GOG) 2,021.00p -1.85%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 315.60p -1.77%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 159.70p -1.72%