- Osborne's 2014 Budget in focus
- Jobless rate, BoE minutes, FOMC meeting
- Ukraine-Russia tensions running high
- Smiths Group drops on H2 outlook
- Ophir plummets, Imagination jumps
techMARK 2,817.88 +0.53%
FTSE 100 6,595.59 -0.15%
FTSE 250 16,366.11 +0.07%
Stocks were trading in the red on Wednesday but within a narrow range as traders adopted a cautious stance amid a busy day for financial markets worldwide.
While investors continue to keep a close eye on developments in Ukraine, today's schedule also includes UK employment data, minutes from the Bank of England and the 2014 Budget statement this afternoon.
If that wasn't enough, the two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee concludes this evening with policymakers widely expected to continue tapering their asset purchase programme by $10bn a month.
The FTSE 100 was trading 0.15% lower at 6,560 by midday, with just 29 points separating its intraday high (6,609.46) and low (6,580.46).
Investors cautious ahead of busy day
UK Chancellor George Osborne will deliver his 2014 Budget at 12:30 which he says is designed for a "resilient economy". However, given that there is just 14 months to go before the General Election, analysts at FxPro said they are expecting this Budget to be "more of a political an than economic one".
"The effect this has on sterling or the FTSE 100 is often overplayed but this won't stop investors from keeping a close eye, in particular when the Office of Budget Responsibilities growth forecasts are announced," they said.
The Budget comes after data this morning showed that the UK jobless rate was unchanged in the three months to January at 7.2%, surprising analysts who had expected a dip to 7.1%. Meanwhile, minutes from the latest Monetary Policy Committee meeting revealed that all nine members were unanimous in keeping interest rates and the stock of asset purchases unchanged.
Geopolitical tensions between Ukraine, Russia and the West are still high after yesterday's move by Vladimir Putin to annex Crimea following this weekend's landslide referendum in the region. Western leaders have promised more sanctions in response to the move.
Developments overnight resulted in a Ukrainian officer being killed by Russian forces near the Crimean capital of Simferopol. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the shooting a "war crime" and said the conflict between the neighbouring nations is "moving from a political one to a military one".
Smiths Group drops on H2 outlook
UK manufacturing firm Smiths Group fell sharply despite reporting a smaller-than-expected decline in adjusted profits in its first half, as the company warned that currency movements will have a 4-5% impact on earnings for the full year.
Copper producer Antofagasta fell after Credit Suisse cut its rating from 'neutral' to 'underperform' following the stock's outperformance over recent months. "With the positive of better-than-expected cost-cutting now played out together with heightened uncertainty around copper prices we downgrade the shares," the bank said.
Global banking group HSBC was also under the weather after Credit Suisse lowered the stock by two notches from 'outperform' to 'underperform' and slashed its target price.
A number of FTSE 100 stocks were trading lower after going ex-dividend today, including British Land, Anglo American and InterContinental Hotels. Ex-div stocks on the FTSE include Dunelm, Go-Ahead, Close Brothers, Ferrexpo, Lancashire Holdings, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels and Moneysupermarket.com.
Heading the other way was housebuilder Persimmon and engineering group Rolls-Royce after UBS raised both names to 'buy'.
On the FTSE 250, the share price of Ophir Energy sunk after the company said it has failed to encounter significant hydrocarbons at the Padouck Deep-1 well in the Ntsina Block offshore Gabon. Chief Executive Nick Cooper said: "The Padouck Deep-1 result is disappointing but its failure appears to be prospect-specific and does not dampen our enthusiasm for the broader pre-salt play offshore Gabon."
Chip designer Imagination Technologies surged after launching its new graphics processors to allow photo-realistic gaming on mobile devices, strengthening its offering in an area of key concern to analysts.
FTSE 100 - Risers
BAE Systems (BA.) 420.20p +3.04%
Barclays (BARC) 242.55p +2.75%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,078.00p +1.70%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,895.00p +1.70%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 474.70p +1.56%
Hammerson (HMSO) 559.50p +1.45%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,384.00p +1.24%
Old Mutual (OML) 194.10p +1.20%
Resolution Ltd. (RSL) 355.10p +1.17%
Meggitt (MGGT) 470.20p +1.05%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,270.00p -6.00%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 807.00p -2.60%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,430.00p -2.56%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 306.75p -1.51%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,890.00p -1.46%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 309.90p -1.27%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,379.00p -1.22%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,426.00p -1.11%
Diageo (DGE) 1,777.50p -1.11%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 773.00p -1.02%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 182.40p +11.08%
Victrex plc (VCT) 1,936.00p +4.99%
Evraz (EVR) 63.20p +4.29%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 497.60p +4.25%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,566.00p +3.01%
Synthomer (SYNT) 278.10p +2.58%
Man Group (EMG) 105.30p +2.53%
CSR (CSR) 724.50p +2.48%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 397.10p +2.21%
Kentz Corporation Ltd. (KENZ) 742.50p +1.99%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 242.10p -18.04%
Partnership Assurance Group (PA.) 294.60p -7.71%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 179.90p -3.80%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 578.00p -3.67%
Xaar (XAR) 875.00p -3.31%
Lancashire Holdings Limited (LRE) 713.50p -2.46%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 49.69p -2.38%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 164.40p -2.26%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 511.50p -1.73%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 144.70p -1.70%