Elections in Germany, an uncertain outlook for Federal Reserve monetary policy and a debate over the US debt ceiling weighed on markets on Monday morning, as traders shrugged off upbeat data from China and the Eurozone.
The HSBC/Markit flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) for China's manufacturing sector rose from 50.1 to a six-month high of 51.2 in September, ahead of the 50.9 excepted. Meanwhile, the Eurozone composite PMI (which measures both manufacturing and services sectors) improved from 51.5 to 52.1 (forecast: 51.8).
Market Analyst Craig Erlam from Alpari said the figures "only had a marginal impact on the markets this morning". He said: "We'd have seen a much bigger reaction had the numbers been negative, given people's view that the recovery is extremely fragile."
Markets across Europe were mixed on Monday in the aftermath of the German elections this weekend. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party won 41.5% of the vote after gaining 311 seats in the Bundestag, though this was four seats shy of an absolute majority. The current coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats (FDP), missed out of the 5% minimum threshold and will not be represented in parliament meaning that Merkel is left having to build a new coalition with either the Social Democrats (SPD) or the Green Party, who won 25.7% and 8.4% of the vote, respectively.
Stocks gained strongly in the aftermath of last Wednesday's surprise decision by the Federal Reserve not to begin scaling back stimulus. However, gains were mostly erased by the end of last week after James Bullard, head of the St Louis Fed, admitted that the decision was a close call and that the central bank could still trim asset purchases at its next meeting. He said: "it's possible you could get some data that change the complexion of the outlook and could make the committee be comfortable with a small taper in October."
Meanwhile, talks surrounding the US debt ceiling were also catching the attention of investors today after President Barack Obama this weekend urged Congress to approve a budget to prevent a government shutdown by October 1st.
Erlam said: "While most people in the markets would agree that the odds of a government shutdown are extremely slim, they are clearly not willing to put their money where their mouth is."
FTSE 100: Aberdeen upbeat despite volatile markets
Investment group Aberdeen gained after saying that underlying profits should still come in at the higher end of analysts' forecasts despite a slight drop in assets under management (AuM) in the fourth quarter. AuM declined from £209.6bn to £201.7bn during the two months to August 31st due to "considerable" volatility across financial markets, it said.
Chemicals firm Croda was performing well after Credit Suisse upgraded its recommendation from 'neutral' to 'outperform' and hiked its target price from 2,600p to 3,000p.
FTSE newcomer Coca-Cola bottling group Coca-Cola HBC was among the worst performers this morning, extending its losing streak into the third straight day. Matt Basi, Head of Sales Trading at CMC Markets, said that traders are "tak[ing] profits from the highs of last week - the best levels since the stock moved to the London market in April".
Mining stocks were broadly lower this morning despite Citigroup raising target prices across the board. The bank however said it sees "limited scope for additional earnings upgrades" amongst the large UK-listed miners following a recent re-rating in the sector. Randgold, Anglo American and Fresnillo were in the red.
Banking stocks were also providing a drag with Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Barclays registering losses as risk appetite was scaled back.
British Gas owner Centrica declined after announcing the decision not proceed with its Baird and Caythorpe gas storage projects due to "weak economics for storage projects and the announcement by the UK government on September 4th ruling out intervention in the market to encourage additional gas storage capacity to be built". Utility peers National Grid and United Utilities were also lower.
Telecoms giant Vodafone gained after UBS raised its target price for the shares
from 230p to 245p after including Kabel Deutschland in its forecasts whilst removing Verizon Wireless. The bank retained its 'buy' rating, saying that Vodafone's valuation is "attractive".
FTSE 250: Dechra jumps after upgrade
Pharmaceuticals firm Dechra was a high riser today after Investec upgraded the stock from 'add' to 'buy' and raised its target price from 708p to 788p. The broker said: "Re-working our valuation methodology for the increased detail [following last week's results] we now have suggests a much higher value than we first thought."
Drinks group A.G BARR gained after half-year profits rose 12% as a warm UK summer helped drive sales of soft drinks. Numis and Canaccord Genuity both raised their ratings for the stock this morning to 'add' and 'buy', respectively.
Dairy foods company Dairy Crest edged higher after saying it continues to perform in line with company expectations, despite the challenging trading environment, and profit targets for the full year remain unchanged.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 395.60p +2.14%
Croda International (CRDA) 2,722.00p +1.57%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,311.00p +1.16%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,419.00p +1.00%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,635.00p +0.99%
IMI (IMI) 1,468.00p +0.96%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 210.35p +0.89%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,125.00p +0.81%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 1,569.00p +0.71%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 399.10p +0.68%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,827.00p -2.30%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,578.00p -2.10%
Barclays (BARC) 268.30p -1.88%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,561.50p -1.85%
Centrica (CNA) 395.40p -1.69%
National Grid (NG.) 746.00p -1.65%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,016.00p -1.65%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 75.10p -1.51%
Schroders (SDR) 2,592.00p -1.48%
Shire Plc (SHP) 2,560.00p -1.27%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Dechra Pharmaceuticals (DPH) 728.00p +4.82%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 451.70p +4.51%
Britvic (BVIC) 572.50p +3.25%
Alent (ALNT) 350.50p +3.09%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 3,752.00p +2.74%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 131.90p +2.73%
SEGRO (SGRO) 307.40p +2.67%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 429.60p +2.65%
Menzies(John) (MNZS) 790.00p +2.07%
Unite Group (UTG) 375.20p +1.90%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
esure Group (ESUR) 252.60p -3.84%
Computacenter (CCC) 499.50p -3.01%
Polymetal International (POLY) 650.00p -2.84%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 44.36p -2.51%
Keller Group (KLR) 1,064.00p -2.21%
Evraz (EVR) 133.70p -2.12%
Dialight (DIA) 1,154.00p -1.95%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 178.80p -1.87%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 320.20p -1.84%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 147.80p -1.79%