After a slow start, the FTSE 100 had erased losses by midday on Friday but markets remain subdued as stocks struggle for direction in the absence of economic news and ongoing political uncertainty in the States.
Since the partial shutdown of the US government has extended into its fourth day, governmental agencies and departments will not be releasing economic data as scheduled, while politicians continue to wrangle over the budget and the crucial debt ceiling limit. Analysts said that stocks this side of the Pond were directionless this morning given that the all-important US jobs report will not be released.
"With all European indices slightly higher in early trade, the underlying sentiment seems to be marginally hopeful of a resolution from the US government. The FTSE is clinging to its 200-day moving average, underperforming its counterparts," said Brenda Kelly, Senior Market Strategist at IG.
Markets are hoping that Congress will agree to raise the $16.7tn debt limit by the October 17th deadline to prevent the US government defaulting on its obligations, something that the Treasury Department said could have a "catastrophic effect" on all aspects of the US economy. It said in a report on Thursday that a default could lead to "events of the magnitude of late 2008 or worse".
Meanwhile, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said failure to raise the debt ceiling would do damage to the global economy: "The government shutdown is bad enough, but failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse, and could very seriously damage not only the US economy, but the entire global economy."
House Speaker John Boehner reportedly said that he would not allow a default and would consider using a combination of Republican and Democratic votes to lift the debt ceiling if needed. According to an article in The New York Times, Boehner is willing to violate the so-called Hastert Rule which refers to "not bringing to the floor any measures that does not have a majority of Republican votes", the paper said.
FTSE 100: Tate & Lyle gains despite mixed Q2
Sweeteners and food ingredients group Tate & Lyle was in demand despite a mixed second- quarter update. The company said that adjusted operating profits in the second quarter were slightly below last year due to softness in the US beverage sector but it still maintained its guidance for "another year of profitable growth" in the 12 months to March 2014.
Barclays was higher after announcing that it had received valid acceptances in respect of over 3bn of the new discounted shares
offered to shareholders (around 95%) for its £5.8bn rights issue. Bookrunners who have underwritten the offer will sell the remaining 173m shares today. The bank also received a ratings upgrade by Investec from 'add' to 'buy'.
Other financials were performing relatively well this morning with insurers Standard Life, Prudential, Resolution and RSA edging higher, along with banking groups HSBC and RBS. Emerging market-focused Standard Chartered however was in the red after receiving a ratings downgrade from Numis last night.
Shares in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) edged lower after US pharmaceuticals peer Eli Lilly warned on its 2014 revenue target due to "challenging" market conditions and foreign-exchange effects in Japan and the emerging markets. Panmure Gordon said Glaxo is the most exposed to Japan (among the companies its covers) which accounted for some 8.4% of its revenues in 2012.
FTSE 250: Carpetright sinks on CEO exit, profit warning
Shares in carpet and curtains retailer Carpetright plunged this morning after announcing the departure of Chief Executive Darren Shapland as it warned falling sales meant full-year profits would be "significantly" below its previous expectations. Carpetright reported that underlying sales in the UK were down 2.5% in the 10 weeks ending September 29th and had fallen 7.6% in the rest of Europe in local currency terms.
Retail peers Dixons and Home Retail however were on the rise after UBS upgraded its ratings for both stocks from 'neutral' to 'buy' and hiked target prices. In a review of the UK retail sector, the bank said that it foresees a re-rating "as real wage pressure abates, employment recovers further and the big debt paydown subsides".
FTSE 100 - Risers
Standard Life (SL.) 355.40p +2.90%
GKN (GKN) 354.00p +2.76%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 752.00p +1.76%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 3,253.00p +1.62%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 372.50p +1.58%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 279.70p +1.30%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,058.00p +1.24%
CRH (CRH) 1,484.00p +1.23%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,226.50p +1.14%
SABMiller (SAB) 3,023.00p +1.09%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Kingfisher (KGF) 373.50p -1.71%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,379.00p -1.57%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,444.00p -1.47%
Sage Group (SGE) 330.40p -1.05%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,556.50p -0.92%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,167.00p -0.91%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,319.00p -0.83%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,204.00p -0.82%
Tesco (TSCO) 362.05p -0.81%
Next (NXT) 5,100.00p -0.78%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Bank of Georgia Holdings (BGEO) 2,010.00p +4.31%
Dignity (DTY) 1,440.00p +2.71%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 29.02p +2.58%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) 217.90p +2.44%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 46.73p +2.37%
Greggs (GRG) 425.80p +2.33%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 132.50p +2.16%
Regus (RGU) 195.20p +2.09%
Paragon Group Of Companies (PAG) 325.80p +2.04%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 4,106.00p +2.01%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Carpetright (CPR) 612.00p -9.13%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 397.20p -3.17%
Evraz (EVR) 121.00p -2.50%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 119.00p -1.98%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 392.40p -1.92%
ICAP (IAP) 355.70p -1.90%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 760.00p -1.87%
Soco International (SIA) 409.60p -1.77%
IP Group (IPO) 137.00p -1.65%
PayPoint (PAY) 1,060.00p -1.58%