UK markets opened cautiously on Monday as sentiment was dampened by Fitch Ratings, which downgraded its credit rating for Italy in the aftermath of an inconclusive election.
Fitch downgraded Italy to 'BBB+' from 'A-' and kept the outlook at 'negative', saying that last month's elections make it unlikely a stable new government can be formed in the next few weeks.
"With fourth-quarter 2012 data confirming that Italy's ongoing recession is one of the deepest in Europe, the increased political uncertainty and non-conducive backdrop for further structural reform measures constitute a further adverse shock to the real economy," Fitch said.
The FTSE 100 rallied on Friday after US non-farm payrolls smashed forecasts in February: the economy created 236,000 jobs last month, well ahead of the 160,000 estimate.
However, soft economic data from China was also weighing on the mood this morning, causing cyclical stocks in London (such as banks and miners) to take a hit, as industrial output weakened in February and lending and retail sales growth slowed.
Ladbrokes extends partnership with Playtech
Betting group Ladbrokes surged after unveiling plans to extend its relationship with online gaming software company Playtech as part of the former's 're-invigoration' of its Digital business. Ladbrokes will create a new e-commerce and digital marketing services operation, to be integrated with the company's existing Digital teams in London and Gibraltar, to enable it to make full use of Digital-focused advisory services provided by Playtech.
Software company Anite plummeted early on after saying that third-quarter trading reflected a relatively quiet seasonal period. Investec downgraded the stock to 'hold' this morning.
Airline group IAG edged higher after saying it has opted to accept a proposal put forth by a mediator regarding its Spanish unit Iberia. According to a news article published on Reuters news website, the mediator proposed that the Spanish airline cut 3,141 jobs rather than the 3,807 that the airline had planned to let go. The proposal also reportedly entitled those subject to the lay-offs with severance pay of 35 days per year worked, rather than 20.
Accountancy software firm Sage sunk after Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its recommendation to 'underperform'.
Oil and gas group SOCO was in demand after saying that revenues reached a record $621.6m in 2012, up 166% year-on-year, after a "transformational" year which saw the firm bring on additional production ahead of schedule at its Te Giac Trang (TGT) field in Vietnam.
Real estate firm Raven Russia was also up after saying that operating profit rose 63% in 2012, underpinned by profitable acquisitions.
Industrial property specialist Hansteen Holdings gained after reporting a sharp increase in full-year profit and underlining its confidence in future trading with an increase in its dividend payment.
FTSE 100 - Risers
SABMiller (SAB) 3,447.00p +1.23%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 719.50p +1.12%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 868.50p +0.99%
TUI Travel (TT.) 311.90p +0.94%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,677.00p +0.91%
IMI (IMI) 1,337.00p +0.75%
BG Group (BG.) 1,177.50p +0.73%
Prudential (PRU) 1,023.00p +0.69%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 167.60p +0.66%
Serco Group (SRP) 630.50p +0.64%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Sage Group (SGE) 335.30p -4.04%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 300.20p -1.96%
Evraz (EVR) 263.50p -1.50%
Carnival (CCL) 2,492.00p -1.46%
Barclays (BARC) 314.00p -1.44%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 49.37p -1.40%
Aviva (AV.) 321.50p -1.02%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,279.00p -0.85%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 528.00p -0.85%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 731.30p -0.77%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ladbrokes (LAD) 243.80p +8.26%
WH Smith (SMWH) 734.50p +4.18%
Playtech Ltd. (PTEC) 570.00p +3.35%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 264.70p +2.52%
EnQuest (ENQ) 139.90p +2.49%
Raven Russia Ltd (RUS) 66.95p +2.45%
Regus (RGU) 153.50p +2.20%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 137.20p +2.01%
Premier Farnell (PFL) 235.50p +1.51%
Hansteen Holdings (HSTN) 84.75p +1.50%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 456.50p -12.55%
Anite (AIE) 140.50p -9.35%
ICAP (IAP) 329.20p -3.91%
Perform Group (PER) 422.00p -2.50%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 214.50p -2.37%
Tullett Prebon (TLPR) 269.70p -2.00%
Drax Group (DRX) 610.00p -1.93%
BH Global Ltd. USD Shares (BHGU) 11.74 -1.92%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 252.10p -1.91%
Chemring Group (CHG) 266.50p -1.91%