1630:Close Stocks finished firmly lower today as concerns over mounting geopolitical tensions in western Europe and fears of slowing growth in China ensured a lack of confidence amongst investors. Chinese PMI dropped to 48.1 this month from 48.5 in February, marking the fifth consecutive fall for the index and missing the market's estimate for 49.7, while Eurozone PMI fell from 53.3 to 53.2, as expected. Meanwhile, the ongoing Ukraine crisis stepped up a gear over the weekend on reports of Russian troops storming more bases in Crimea following a referendum and subsequent annexation of the region last week. In company news, Investec upgraded Lloyds from 'hold' to 'buy', sending it into the top spot. The FTSE 100 closed down 36.78 points at 6,520.39.
1535: Davy Research has downgraded Barratt Developments to 'neutral'. At previous peaks for the sector back in March 1994 and January 2007 the average price-to-tangible-book-value valuation metric hit a ratio of 2.1 and 2.3, respectively, the broker points out.
1514: BC Partners has approached Dixons about a merger with Phones4u, which may scupper attempts at merging with Carphone Warehouse.
1414: Analysts at Unicredit have cut their forecast for the price of copper during the second quarter to 6,600 dollars per ton, versus 7,000 dollars beforehand. For 2014 as a whole the broker now expects only 6,750 dollars per ton rather than 7,000 dollars per ton.
1330: Three month copper futures are lower by 0.4 per cent at 6,502.75 dollars per metric tonne.
1246: SSE and Centrica are under selling pressure on the back of a weekend report in The Times that the 'big six' utilities could be forced to split their power generation and retail operations.
1034: Standard Life and Phoenix are making gains after saying they are in talks regarding the potential purchase of the latter's Ignis Asset Management division. However, Shore Capital Analyst Eamonn Flanagan, who kept a 'hold' rating on Standard Life this morning, said: "Such a deal is likely to reduce the likelihood of further special dividends in the short term". As for Phoenix, Flanagan said that a sale of Ignis "would be likened to 'selling the family silver'".
1006: Credit Suisse lifts pirce targets on Aviva and Imperial Tobacco. British American Tobacco target lowered to 3,500p from 3,550p.
0953: Analysts at Investec have decided to upgrade their recommendation for shares
of Lloyds to 'buy' from 'hold' following the 10 per cent pullback seen in the shares over the last 10 weeks. They now see "reasonable value for a low-risk stock". Amongst some of the other factors which have led them to be more sanguine on the shares they say they are now less "less afraid" of the threat posed by "government overhang".
0858: The composite PMI for the Eurozone´s manufacturing and services industries slipped to a reading of 53.2 for March, from the preliminary print of 53.3 for the month before. The consensus estimate had been for a reading of 53.5. On the 'plus' side, the French data may be pointing towards a fully fledged recovery which may become evident in the second quarter. However, still falling 'prices charged' in both sectors throughout the Eurozone may still give European authorities 'food for thought', Markit added.
0843: Stocks have started the session slightly lower, pressured by a much lower than expected reading, overnight, on China´s manufacturing sector. In that regard, Capital Economics pointed out to clients that the above was even weaker than might at first appear to be the case. This is because Markit´s PMI index has a strong tendency to rise in the month following the Chinese Lunear New Year. Tesco is doing best on the Footsie, followed by shares of Lloyds, which have been upgraded to 'buy' from 'neutral' at broker Investec. IAG stock has been removed from Morgan Stanley´s 'Best Ideas' list. Acting as a backdrop, the Chinese Yuan has snapped higher after Beijing raised its daily fixing for the country´s currency - for the first time in five sessions. Investors will also be watching the G7 meeting to gauge the West´s response to recent events in Crimea. There are some worries that Russia might attempt further incursions into Ukraine. FTSE 100 down 19 to 6,538.