- US and Asia stocks sink overnight
- Concerns about Ukraine, Russia
- BP signs deal with US Environmental Protection Agency
UK stocks face a negative start to today's session, tracking declines seen in both Asia and the US overnight as concerns about the situation in Ukraine mount.
City sources predict the FTSE 100 will open 34 points lower than yesterday's close of 6,553.78.
US stocks plunged on Thursday, registering their worst losses in five weeks, amid widesread reports Russia has increased its military presence close to the Ukraine border ahead of the referendum being held this weekend over whether or not to make Crimea part of Russia.
The New York Times said yesterday that "in Moscow, the military acknowledged significant operations involving armoured and airborne troops in the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions abutting eastern Ukraine".
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State has said it is unclear whether or not Russia will annex Crimea, commenting that, "if Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine".
"We, also as neighbours of Russia, would not only see it as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union's relationship with Russia. No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically."
The Group of Seven leaders has issued a statement saying the referendum is illegal and would not be recognised by the international community.
US President Barack Obama met Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House yesterday. Obama said "the international community - the European Union and others - will be forced to apply a cost to Russia's violations of international law and its encroachments on Ukraine".
Turning to today's agenda, data will be released on the UK trade balance and then later on the US will published the University of Michigan's consumer confidence index.
In this morning's company news, oil giant BP announced that it has entered into an agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which resolves the issues related to the suspension, debarment and disqualification of BP following the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. As such, the group is now eligible to enter into new contracts with the US government, including new deepwater leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
Pub and bar operator Wetherspoon reported an 8.5% rise in pre-tax profit to £37.8m in the 26 weeks ended January 26th on the back of an increase in sales. Like-for-like sales climbed 5.2%, with total sales, including new pubs, up 9.1% to £683.2m.
Online fashion group Boohoo.com is due to start trading on the AIM market today, with a market valuation of about £560m.