UK stocks slumped in early trading on Thursday as investors awaited a barrage of economic data from the US amid mounting fears of a withdrawal of stimulus by the Federal Reserve.
"With the markets having a good run of late, the combination of uninspiring earnings and fears of tapering could create some pressure selling in when the European markets open," said Max Cohen, a Financial Sales Trader from Spreadex, before trading started this morning.
Meanwhile, the ongoing violence in Egypt continues to be a worry for markets after the interim government declared a state of emergency yesterday and Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei resigned after a wave of bloody protests over recent days.
Retail sales figures will be the only major economic indicator to watch here in the UK today, though traders will keep their eyes peeled for a long list of data in the States this afternoon, including: CPI inflation; jobless claims; New York and Philadelphia manufacturing; industrial production; and the NAHB housing market index.
Jobless claims in particular will be closely watched given the Fed's comments linking a recovery in the labour market to the potential scaling back of asset purchases. Analysts are predicting a slight increase in claims to 335,000 during the week ended August 9th, up from 333,000 the week before.
Imperial lights up early on
Imperial Tobacco rose this morning after saying it is sticking to its full-year expectations despite a fall in volumes and sales amid difficult market conditions in Europe. Sector peer British American Tobacco was also higher.
Antofagasta was lower after JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded its rating for the copper mining group from 'overweight' to 'neutral', saying that its valuation is up to speed with events. The bank named Glencore Xstrata as its top pick in the copper sector.
Old Mutual meanwhile was in demand after the same broker raised its recommendation from 'neutral' to 'overweight' on the back of its first-half results last week.
British Airways and Iberia owner IAG fell after revealing it is buying up to 220 Airbus short-haul jets for the two airlines and its newly acquired Spanish budget carrier Vueling.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,208.00p +2.51%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,279.00p +0.95%
Carnival (CCL) 2,498.00p +0.81%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,978.00p +0.71%
Aviva (AV.) 406.60p +0.42%
Old Mutual (OML) 198.50p +0.25%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,358.00p +0.22%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 898.50p +0.17%
National Grid (NG.) 750.00p +0.13%
Meggitt (MGGT) 538.00p +0.09%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
easyJet (EZJ) 1,280.00p -2.29%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 3,181.00p -2.09%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,163.00p -1.77%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,144.50p -1.53%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,232.00p -1.52%
BG Group (BG.) 1,190.00p -1.37%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 958.00p -1.34%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,676.00p -1.30%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,258.00p -1.18%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,609.00p -1.17%
FTSE 250 - Risers
BH Global Ltd. USD Shares (BHGU) 11.8 +1.64%
Salamander Energy (SMDR) 124.60p +1.47%
Lancashire Holdings Limited (LRE) 758.00p +1.07%
Michael Page International (MPI) 466.80p +0.78%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 161.00p +0.62%
Synthomer (SYNT) 228.00p +0.44%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 103.40p +0.39%
UBM (UBM) 714.50p +0.35%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 154.20p +0.33%
NMC Health (NMC) 315.90p +0.29%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 353.80p -9.28%
Bumi (BUMI) 212.60p -5.51%
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,020.00p -3.81%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 35.86p -3.73%
Carpetright (CPR) 640.00p -3.61%
Drax Group (DRX) 664.50p -3.13%
SIG (SHI) 182.50p -2.93%
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 263.30p -2.70%
AZ Electronic Materials SA (DI) (AZEM) 309.10p -2.58%
Ted Baker (TED) 1,878.00p -2.44%