- FOMC minutes remove taper uncertainty
- BoE decides to hold policy
- Burberry gains, Barratt and AB Foods give up gains
- Financials and airlines fall
techMARK 2,759.10 -0.83%
FTSE 100 6,659.30 -0.87%
FTSE 250 15,358.40 -1.23%
After a slow start, UK stocks sunk sharply into the red by Thursday lunchtime as investors continued to take profits after the FTSE 100 came within touching distance of multi-year highs last week.
Slightly dovish comments from the Federal Reserve gave US indices a boost on Wednesday evening, but failed to inject a positive start in London this morning. Markets were also watching the Bank of England closely as investors continued to speculate over the first rate rise.
Financial, banking and airline stocks were leading the fallers on UK blue-chip index, offsetting a decent performance from Burberry and precious metal miners.
After rising to 6,866.05 on Friday following a much better-than-expected US jobs report, the FTSE 100 has now declined for four straight days and was trading at 6,659 by midday, down 0.9% on the day.
Minutes of its latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting indicated that tapering will end in October with a final $15bn reduction in monthly asset purchases, clearing up the uncertainty over the timing of the planned withdrawal of stimulus. However, policymakers stressed that interest rates will continue to remain near zero for a "considerable time" after the end of quantitative easing.
At noon today, the Monetary Policy Committee decided to maintain the Bank Rate at 0.5% and its asset purchase programme at £375bn. However, uncertainty continues to rein over the timing of the first rate hike, according to Howard Archer, Chief UK & European Economist at IHS Global Insight.
"While there was little, if any, doubt that the MPC would keep interest rates unchanged [...], there is considerable doubt as to whether the Bank of England's first interest rate hike will occur in late-2014 or early-2015. Indeed, there will undoubtedly be many swings in interest rate expectations over the coming weeks and months."
Market sentiment was also dampened by developments across the periphery of Europe after Espirito Santo Financial Group suspended its shares, triggering a sell-off across stock markets continent-wide and sending Portugal's borrowing costs surging. In other news, Spanish group Banco Popular Espanol pulled a 'coco' bond sale "due to market conditions", while trading was halted in several Italian banks.
Burberry, Barratt and AB Foods impress
High-end British fashion group Burberry warned that currency headwinds have increased but said it saw underlying growth in retail sales pick up in the first quarter. Growth accelerated to 17% at constant FX, up from 13% in the second half of last year, helping shares
Precious metal miners Randgold and Fresnillo were also on the rise as gold and silver prices increased.
Pre-tax profits at Barratt Developments will hit the top end of analyst expectations, the company boasted in a pre-close statement, but that didn't stop shares from giving up early gains by mid-morning. Profit before tax is predicted to have more than doubled to £390m in the 12 months to end-June.
Primark owner and food ingredients group Associated British Foods raised its profit guidance for the full year with strong growth at the value fashion retailer outweighing weakness elsewhere. However, after a strong gain early on, the stock had sunk into the red by midday.
London Stock Exchange fell on reports that Qatar Investment Authority has cut its 15% stake in the exchange operator by a third ahead of the UK-listed firm's planned $1.6bn rights issue to fund the acquisition of Frank Russell.
Other stocks in the financial sector, including Barclays, Hargreaves Lansdown, RBS, Aberdeen and RSA were also in the red today.
Asset manager Ashmore, however, was bucking the trend after saying that assets under management had risen 7% over the fourth quarter to $75bn.
Airline peers IAG and easyJet were flying lower today on reports that German rival Lufthansa is considering launching a no-frills long-haul service.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,448.00p +2.04%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,195.00p +1.96%
Fresnillo (FRES) 941.00p +1.29%
Royal Mail (RMG) 475.60p +1.26%
Next (NXT) 6,440.00p +1.18%
BT Group (BT.A) 384.30p +0.97%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 311.40p +0.71%
Tesco (TSCO) 280.70p +0.43%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,012.00p +0.30%
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,666.00p +0.23%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,127.00p -4.49%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 880.00p -3.72%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 1,893.00p -3.22%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 329.10p -3.21%
Barclays (BARC) 205.10p -3.03%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,249.00p -2.95%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 444.30p -2.46%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 308.60p -2.40%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 458.20p -2.37%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,934.00p -2.20%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 364.00p +2.65%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 140.40p +1.96%
Premier Oil (PMO) 329.50p +1.92%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 185.30p +1.81%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 231.70p +1.80%
Grafton Group Units (GFTU) 580.50p +1.49%
Unite Group (UTG) 400.90p +1.24%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 69.80p +1.16%
Grainger (GRI) 213.30p +1.04%
Infinis Energy (INFI) 229.90p +1.01%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hays (HAS) 129.80p -5.74%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 193.50p -4.63%
BTG (BTG) 601.50p -4.07%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 380.60p -4.06%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,042.00p -3.70%
Countrywide (CWD) 465.20p -3.69%
Rightmove (RMV) 2,050.00p -3.62%
Just Eat (JE.) 240.00p -3.61%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 94.65p -3.52%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 742.00p -3.51%