Markets were choppy on Wednesday but trading firmly in the red by midday as investors awaited economic data from the US amid the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Federal Reserve monetary policy.
Recent mixed economic data and conflicting comments by Fed officials over recent days continue to muddy the outlook for the central bank's stimulus programme. Yesterday it was reported that US consumer confidence dropped to its lowest levels in four months in September, while house prices showed their biggest annual jump in over seven years in July.
Stock futures were pointing to a weak start on Wall Street on Wednesday ahead of durable goods and home sales figures, with the Dow Jones & S&P 500
set to extend their recent losing streak into the fifth straight day.
Meanwhile, while the ongoing debate over the US debt ceiling continues to grab the market's attention, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said that investor confidence in an eventual deal to raise the limit is probably "greater than it should be". He said: "People have to take seriously that Congress has a lot of work to do in a short period of time."
According to Moody's, a failure by Congress to agree to lift the debt limit would have a worse outcome for financial markets than a government shutdown. The ratings agency said in a report that worries over a default "could roil financial markets and damage business and consumer confidence".
"If lawmakers fail to drum up a viable plan to raise the debt ceiling, it will be highly likely the Fed will refrain from tapering quantitative easing at least until December the earliest," said Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.
FTSE 100: Carnival extends losses after Q3 disappointment
Cruise operator Carnival was a heavy faller for the second day in a row after the company disappointed with its third-quarter results and guidance for the full year. Morgan Stanley downgraded its rating on the stock this morning from 'equalweight' to 'underweight' and cut its full-year earnings per share estimates by 28%. The bank said: "CCL's early F14 guidance implies a sluggish yield recovery and a step-up in costs, and we think consensus will drift to our level. A major restructuring and/or cash return look unlikely as supports to the stock."
Supermarket group Tesco was hit by a downgrade by JPMorgan Cazenove from 'neutral' to 'underweight' after the bank said that the company will be the most affected by structural problems in the UK food retailing industry given the rising price/range competition from Aldi and Lidl.
Leading the upside were banking stocks with RBS, Barclays and Lloyds among the best performers. Aerospace and defence group BAE Systems was also making gains on hopes over United Arab Emirates contract for up to 60 Typhoons.
Insurance group RSA Insurance was a heavy faller this morning after going ex-dividend, meaning that from today investors won't have access to its latest payout. Centrica and Old Mutual also went ex-dividend today.
FTSE 250: SOCO gains after well update
SOCO International edged higher this morning after saying that two of its three tests on an exploration well offshore Vietnam have exceeded all expectations. Ed Story, President and Chief Executive of SOCO, said he was "very excited" by the results thus far on the H5 Block.
Drax, Premier Farnell, Kentz, Oxford Instruments, Playtech, Redrow and Bovis Homes were all trading lower after going ex-dividend today.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 376.30p +2.28%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 340.00p +2.10%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,657.00p +2.09%
BAE Systems (BA.) 459.90p +2.00%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 216.85p +1.76%
Fresnillo (FRES) 988.00p +1.75%
Barclays (BARC) 275.85p +1.62%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,557.00p +0.74%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 74.71p +0.67%
Aviva (AV.) 406.30p +0.64%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Carnival (CCL) 2,115.00p -6.33%
Centrica (CNA) 377.30p -4.89%
SSE (SSE) 1,508.00p -4.56%
Sage Group (SGE) 334.60p -3.60%
Tesco (TSCO) 363.30p -2.86%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 122.20p -2.24%
Experian (EXPN) 1,206.00p -2.19%
Old Mutual (OML) 190.20p -1.86%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,009.00p -1.85%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,592.00p -1.73%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Greencore Group (GNC) 144.00p +2.86%
Hays (HAS) 115.60p +2.48%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 390.30p +2.44%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 265.70p +2.43%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 3,793.00p +2.21%
Amlin (AML) 408.30p +1.82%
Telecity Group (TCY) 823.00p +1.60%
Greene King (GNK) 806.00p +1.58%
UK Commercial Property Trust (UKCM) 75.70p +1.54%
Workspace Group (WKP) 421.10p +1.54%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Alent (ALNT) 357.30p -3.12%
ICAP (IAP) 385.00p -2.70%
Drax Group (DRX) 675.00p -2.60%
Polymetal International (POLY) 660.50p -2.44%
Tullett Prebon (TLPR) 342.60p -2.37%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 186.50p -2.05%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 343.60p -2.00%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 571.00p -1.97%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 184.80p -1.96%
Rank Group (RNK) 158.00p -1.86%